Upcoming meeting to discuss design changes

The Historic Preservation Commission, part of the Athens-Clarke County Planning Department, is holding a public meeting on Wednesday, March 17.  The meeting will be held at the Planning Department Auditorium at 120 W. Dougherty Street at 5:30 p.m.

The main concern is construction in residential historic districts. There are three items on the agenda that will be up for voting.

The first is the appropriateness of the new construction of a single-family residential home located in the Boulevard Historic District. The second is whether or not a rear addition and detached garage in the Cloverhurst/Springdale Historic District is suitable, and the third item is to vote if a detached carport in the Woodlawn district is appropriate.

According to the Athens-Clarke County Planning Department, there are 10 historic districts in Athens and 41 individual landmark properties that are designated as historic.

The commission will vote if these requests for construction agree with the historic design guidelines.

 The meeting will be comprised of seven people that have been appointed by the Mayor and Commission. The public can speak for or against an application but they are not allowed to vote.

What is the Historic Preservation Commission?

According to Amber Eskew, preservation planner for the Historic Preservation Commission, the commission is a volunteer board that strongly feels preservation of the historic character of Athens is the right thing for the city. They are willing to give their time in this effort.

“They try very hard to work with applicants for a successful project and are often able to compromise in such a way that a design can be made appropriate while still meeting the applicant’s needs,” Eskew stated.

According to the Downtown Historic District Design Guidelines, “The Historic Preservation Commission is charged with promoting, protecting and preserving the historic, cultural and aesthetic heritage of designated historic areas”.

Normally, an application for a Certificate of Appropriateness is submitted to the Historic Preservation Planner and is up for review to determine if projected exterior changes on historic properties are appropriate in design and materials. If during the meeting, the commission approves the application, the certificate is issued.

In order for the commission to decide if applications are appropriate, design guidelines are used to explain what is suitable for a given historic district or property. Eskew explains that they look at things such as scale, massing, height, the amount of window openings, and building materials used.

Why is it important to preserve historic districts?

According to the ACC Planning Department, a neighborhood sample study shows economic benefits of preservation. Woodlawn and Boulevard are two historic districts that were sampled for the study.

 The findings mention that both neighborhoods are listed in the National Register of Historic Places and are locally designated.  The study states that “the analysis of these neighborhoods, when comparing dollars adjusted for inflation, shows an impressive increase. Over a twenty-year period, beginning in 1976, the 94 property assessment values sampled in this area rose at a rate of 47.75 percent.”

“Retaining community character provides a sense of place for residents, new and old, it is a source of pride and of tourism dollars,” Eskew said.

In addition, the study reveals that the upkeep of these properties have resulted in an increase of temporary local jobs, permit revenue and tax dollars to the community compared to non-designated neighborhoods.

Where to get more information:

 For detailed information on guidelines, studies, and applications, please visit the historic preservation page on the ACC Department of Planning website at http://www.accplanning.com/historic.php.

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