The Medford City Council wants to narrow the focus of a proposed ordinance that would protect historical houses from demolition.

The Medford City Council wants to narrow the focus of a proposed ordinance that would protect historical houses from demolition.

Recently the council discussed protecting all houses in the city older than 50 years of age. On further consideration Thursday, the council agreed a blanket 50-year minimum would be too broad.

The Old East Medford Homeowner's Association in October asked the City Council to consider an ordinance to protect older houses, citing in particular the Geneva Street and Minnesota Avenue historic district.

Shelley Spliethof, spokeswoman for the homeowner's association, told the council Thursday, "Perhaps the focus should be on districts and houses that are historic."

Neighbors in the Geneva and Minnesota neighborhood have raised concerns about commercial development on adjacent East Main Street, including a methadone clinic.

"I do believe this neighborhood is special," Councilman Bob Strosser said.

But Councilman John Michaels said the city could be headed down a "slippery slope" by designating some neighborhoods as special.

"Every neighborhood has its own unique flavor," Michaels said.

A special designation for a specific neighborhood could make it more difficult for social service agencies to locate in the area, he said.

Some of the other neighborhoods that city staff identified as historical include South Oakdale Avenue, Hillcrest Orchard and the downtown. However, council members pointed out there are a number of neighborhoods with historical houses, including near Roosevelt Elementary School.

Jim Huber, Medford planning director, said some of the suggestions for the new ordinance include creating setbacks from property lines of 10 feet for every floor on a commercial building.

Under the proposal, demolition of a historical building would require approved plans for a replacement structure that is compatible with the neighborhood.

Another solar ordinance under consideration by the city would require that buildings not cast a shadow greater than 6 feet high on the northern lot line of an adjacent property at noon on Dec. 21.

The idea of protecting older houses from demolition has been discussed for years, but the issue gathered steam after a proposal came before the city to connect a sky bridge to a house at 815 East Main St. that is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The city rejected the idea because the sky bridge wasn't compatible with a historical structure, but neighbors in the Geneva and Minnesota area expressed concern that the city doesn't have laws in place that would protect the house from being demolished.

The council agreed to have the city's planning staff continue to review an ordinance to protect older houses, including taking the idea before the Medford Planning Commission and other city commissions.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email