To the editor:

I am writing to encourage public support for the ordinance to add a municipal and religious adaptive reuse overlay district, which will facilitate an appropriate reuse of four historic municipal and religious buildings that are no longer in use and are deteriorating. The ordinance, voted on at the Salem City Council meeting last Thursday, ended up one vote short of passing. A motion was passed to reconsider, and it will be up for a vote again at the March 14 City Council meeting.

After months of hard work and input from public testimony, we have a solid zoning overlay ordinance that does not allow for new construction on the properties (aside from ADA compliance such as ramps, elevators, etc.) to preserve the historic integrity of our neighborhoods.

The importance of passing this ordinance cannot be overstated. Without it, there is no path forward for these buildings; no historic preservation, no affordable housing units created, continued lost revenue for our city which increases our tax burden, and further deterioration of the buildings. If this does not pass, it will be two more years before the issue can be taken up again. Abandoned buildings are bad for our communities, local businesses, and can be a safety risk for our first responders when problems arise such as fire.

For anyone that would like to express their support for the ordinance, you can email the city councilors at citycouncilors@salem.com, or come to the City Council meeting on March 14  at 7 p.m. (sign in required 30 minutes prior).

Alice Merkl

Salem