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HPC clears funds, but rules are still not complete yet

August 13, 2012

By STEVEN NALLEY
sdnedu@bellsouth.net

The Starkville Historic Preservation Commission approved payment for the writer of “Standards for Starkville’s Historic Districts” at its meeting Tuesday, but after discussing several remaining changes desired, the commission did not hold a vote to approve a final draft.

Commission chair Michael Fazio said he hopes to finish discussion of these standards by the end of the month.

“We don’t have a final draft, but we’re down to very modest changes,” Fazio said. “I anticipate I will read it line by line one more time. Hopefully, we’ll have a vote at the next meeting.”

For the past several months, Mississippi Heritage Trust Executive Director David Preziosi has been drafting design guidelines for historic buildings in planned local historic districts, incorporating the HPC’s recommendations into multiple revisions. City Planner Ben Griffith said the grant helping the city pay for the Preziosi’s work concludes with the fiscal year, leading the HPC to hold a specially called meeting so it could recommend approval of Preziosi’s payment to the Starkville Board of Aldermen.

“Preziosi provided us an invoice for $4,000; that’s the city’s share,” Griffith said. “It will need to be included on next week’s board (of aldermen’s) docket to make it.”

Commissioner Jason Barrett was the only one absent from the meeting, but all other commissioners suggested changes to the guidelines in turn. Many were minor; for instance, commissioner Briar Jones said he wanted a font that better reflected the city’s character.

Other changes may have only removed a few words, but the consequences were far-reaching. For instance, Jones also asked to delete an element disallowing metal awnings.

“‘No metal awnings,’ in my mind, could be construed in a lot of different ways,” Jones said.

Commissioner Tom Walker said the Starkville Central Neighborhood Foundation has recently succeeded in getting downtown Starkville on the National Register of Historic Places, and he wanted the commission to consider factoring the downtown national district into its discussion. He said he wanted to include guidelines for storefronts in the document to prepare for any discussion of adding the NRHP district to Starkville’s local historic districts.

“If we ever decided to deal with downtown, my experience is having a ‘known’ is better than having an ‘unknown’ to throw stones at,” Walker said. “Something that already exists is less troublesome to think of.”
Several commissioners said it was too early to factor downtown into the guidelines. Ultimately, Fazio said, the commission decided to leave any reference to commercial buildings like the ones downtown out of the document.
“That’s a completely different discussion for another day,” Fazio said. “In my mind, if and when we were to decide we wanted to deal with downtown, I would only imagine we would go to the downtown property owners first and say, ‘What do you think?’ I don’t want anything in here that looks like we’re in fact way down that road.”

The commission did vote on a final name for the document, and commissioner Cyndi Sullivan said she wanted to see every reference to the “guidelines” inside the document changed to the word “standards.”

Finally, the commission voted to elect officers at its Sept. 25 meeting, a move Griffith said was consistent with other city committees.

“I think I only have one other committtee that doesn’t have election of officers in September,” Griffith said.

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