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HPC opening floor to public on guidelines

January 22, 2013

The Starkville Historic Preservation Commission will hold a public hearing at its 5:30 p.m. meeting today on the adoption of proposed historic districts, their boundaries and the guidelines for building owners within those boundaries.

The preservation proposal up for discussion has been in the works for more than a year, with several HPC meetings spent working with Mississippi Heritage Trust Executive Director David Preziosi to develop building guidelines that restrict certain changes to historic properties. If the Starkville Board of Aldermen approves the proposal, the guidelines will have the force of law within the proposal’s Greensboro Street, Nash Street and Overstreet districts.

These districts coincide with but do not necessarily replicate corresponding districts on the National Register of Historic Districts, which offers tax incentives for compliance with its building guidelines but does not require compliance. Commission Chairman Michael Fazio said the HPC’s role will change if the proposal passes.

“We would then start monitoring the (historic preservation) process,” Fazio said. “Anything (building owners in historic districts) want to do that’s substantial and not simply maintenance would come before us.”

City Attorney Chris Latimer said the HPC will hold only one public hearing before forwarding the proposal to the aldermen, who will hold two public hearings of their own before considering approval. He said both state statute and city ordinance only require each board to hold one public hearing, but it is customary for the aldermen to give any new law two public hearings.

“Anytime the city enacts an ordinance, it has two public hearings on that ordinance ... to make sure the public has full notice and an opportunity to be heard on it,” Latimer said. “There will be three (hearings) total, but just one in front of the HPC. That will go over and above the statutory and ordinance requirements.”

In the months since the HPC’s approval of the final guideline draft in August, the HPC has held multiple informal meetings with residents and other stakeholders in each of the historic neighborhoods to gauge attitudes toward the proposal. While commissioners have reported largely positive results from these informal meetings, Fazio said this is no guarantee that the city’s public hearings will be the same.

“People have varied opinions,” Fazio said, “and I would be shocked if there weren’t varied opinions (Tuesday) night.”

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