Prof. Sara Bronin, city and regional planning, was confirmed as chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation on Dec. 22, 2022. She will begin her position on Jan. 31, and it will extend until 2025.
The ACHP is an independent federal agency founded alongside the National Register of Historic Places by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. The council works to advise President Biden, Congress and other federal agencies regarding preservation policy and their impact on historic places.
“Preservation shows us where we came from, and one of the things we are utterly focused on at this time is making sure we are telling the full American story,” said Susan Glimcher, director of the office of communications, education and outreach at ACHP. “Preservation is a community builder … preservation is a way to educate students … preservation is about memory and being able to experience authentic learning in a place.”
Beginning Jan. 30, Bronin will take a leave of absence from Cornell, which will extend through the duration of her position at ACHP. Despite pausing her involvement with Cornell, Bronin plans to continue recruiting students to help with researching and refining policy, just as she has done in previous policy roles.
“My hope is that I will be able to involve students through internships with the agency in the coming years,” Bronin said. “Because it is a federal agency, it is certainly something that would be open to students from all over the country.”
Student involvement is key to Bronin’s work, particularly through her leadership of Cornell’s Legal Construct Lab. Through her lab, Bronin heads the National Zoning Atlas, a resource that provides information about zoning codes and maps in one place. Synthesizing information into one site makes information about zoning more accessible, thus creating a more educated and informed population, Bronin said.
Currently, the National Zoning Atlas includes 18 states but aims to represent all 50 in the future. The Atlas’s team consists of four full-time employees and state-specific teams for each map.
Project coordinator Scott Markley officially started working full-time for the National Zoning Atlas on Jan. 18 and looks to graduate from the University of Georgia with a Ph.D. in geography this May. Thus far, his job has primarily involved coordinating meetings with the state teams and updating their “how to” guide.
“We are also trying to establish some best practices to help our teams,” Markley said. “For example, at the beginning, some teams would cut out roads from their data and other teams would overlay them. So, we have been developing some best practices so we can be a little more consistent.”
Prior to Markley and his colleagues joining the team, Bronin was heading most of the work herself. As she begins to transition into her new role at the ACHP, the new staff will pick up more responsibilities and ensure the National Zoning Atlas continues to develop and grow, furthering Bronin’s mission.
“I care deeply about creating places that are sustainable, connected and fulfilling,” Bronin said. “And I think we have not adequately harnessed the power of law to positively influence places, whether that is through zoning laws or historic preservation rules.”