State halts Sillamäe's city center historic conservation plan

Sillamäe town.
Sillamäe town. Source: ERR

The National Heritage Board stopped the inclusion of the neoclassical center of Sillamäe under national heritage protection plan due to community objections and the board's lack of resources.

Sillamäe's city center houses, parks and boulevards were built in the neoclassical style in the middle of the last century. More than 150 buildings in total were planned to be protected by the national heritage board.

The protective legislation for Sillamäe should have been implemented already last year. However, the process started to drag on and has reached a standstill; the scheduled referendum for this fall has also been canceled.

Liisa Pakosta, the head of the heritage board, said that the matter was shelved due to the agency's underfunding; it lacks the means to draft new protection regulations because it is committed to renewing 12 existing ones.

Pakosta also said that there is the opposition of certain homeowners to the plan.

"There were many objections during public talks, namely, that the new property restrictions should not be so severe, so that homeowners would have greater freedom to live in their homes and, if necessary, have them insulated or treated according to their needs," Pakosta explained.

"Now is the time to thoroughly examine these issues, which will take some time. And perhaps it would be even better for the local government to classify it as a protected area. In that case, the situation would be far more adaptable and under the control of the local government. Figuratively speaking, the state would not have to judge about the nuances of each and every dwelling," she added.

Before the state took up the process, the city of Sillamäe had a proposal to designate the area as an environmental heritage site a decade ago. State protection, however, would entail additional support for the city. Tõnis Kalberg, the mayor of Sillamäe, said that the state oversees and provides support for the entire process if protection is established at the national level.

"There is a subsidy for heritage protection areas and so the state would provide all the necessary assistance. However, it is essential that we agree upon planning and construction criteria, and we have two options for moving forward: national or local. Perhaps the most crucial thing for us is that these decisions be still taken at the local level even if the state does not proceed with its plan," Kalberg said.

There are now two heritage-protected buildings in Sillamäe: the recently renovated Culture House and the closed Rodina cinema.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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