Construction plans approved for Historic Neighborhoods

The Historic Preservation Commission met on a rainy afternoon on March 17 at the Athens-Clarke County Planning Department Auditorium.

The meeting began approximately at 5:30 p.m. with 15 people in attendance. Three rows of chairs were placed for citizens and petitioners to sit and listen and two conference tables up front seated the members of the commission. A PowerPoint presentation showing diagrams of houses and design layouts was shown throughout the discussion.

“Each speaker will be given three minutes to speak. Please state your name for the record if you choose to speak. Any comments need to be addressed to the commission, not each other or the audience,” stated Sharon Bradley, chair of the Historic Preservation Commission.

The first item on the agenda was approval of a new single-family residential home located on Cohen Street in the Boulevard Historic District. The commission asked for the petitioner to come up to the table to discuss. An agent for that party spoke for the petitioner regarding construction changes.

The discussion amongst the agent and the commission members were softly spoken and once the conversation ended, observations of the house were discussed more clearly to the public.

One member of the commission stated that he liked the look of the house but there was “too much craftsman style” and that there might be a few houses in that area “that are not [considered to be] in a craftsman neighborhood.”

The goal for this house was to simplify it and eliminate details that took away from its historic appearance. The biggest concern was the chimney.

“The Historic Preservation Commission were concerned with the chimney being able to be permitted at the height shown if the code couldn’t allow reducing it,” said Amber Eskew, preservation planner for the Historic Preservation Commission. “They felt it was inappropriate at that height.”

An hour later, after much debate, the Commission motioned a vote. The vote was 3-2 and new construction was approved with conditions for the house.

“Some design changes were required regarding the chimney, and some areas of the front facade such as the gable windows, front door, and elimination of some bracket details,” Eskew stated. “They found its details and level of details needing modifications to fit within the very vernacular area.”

According to the commission, details on the house design had to be eliminated because the level of detail provided on the design was not seen in that area.

“They happen to be details common to Craftsman architecture, as are the columns on piers used at the front porch but is was not the fact that they are craftsman but that the area is very vernacular that caused them to need to be changed,” added Eskew.

After the approval of the first item, the second item on the agenda was up for review. This item was regarding Sarah Lacher’s property on Cloverhurst Avenue in the Cloverhurst/Springdale historic district.

The request was for a rear addition and a two-car carport. With conditions such as adding some windows to the left side of the elevation and adjustment and retaining of the walls, the commission approved the changes and voted 5-0.
After the first two items had been approved, most citizens had left the meeting and only five people remained as the commission reviewed the last item on the agenda.

Judson Doherty had requested to add a detached carport to his home as well as approval for modification of his driveway located at Woodlawn Avenue. The modification would be converting his tire-stripped driveway into solid concrete.

The Commission reviewed Doherty’s application and voted yes (5-0) for such changes with the following conditions.

“The site plan needed be adjusted- the degree of the carport roof slope had to be decreased, a gable vent was eliminated and retaining wall information needed to be provided,” Eskew said.

The commission approved each item based on the historic preservation design guidelines. The guidelines state that it is important for new construction to be similar to nearby historic buildings such as scale, materials and composition.  It should also have the same orientation as nearby historic examples.

No further comments were spoken after the last vote and now, according to Eskew, it is up to the property owners to turn in any revised plans required and then get zoning permits approved before proceeding.

“Sometimes driveway permits are also needed before they can apply for building permits. But how long this takes is really up the applicant and how quickly they turn in the necessary revisions and paperwork. This could take a day or two or much longer,” Eskew stated.

The next public meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission will meet on April 21, 2010.

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