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Preservation group refines district rules for neighborhoods

November 23, 2011

By STEVEN NALLEY
citybeat@bellsouth.net

The Starkville Historic Preservation Commission discussed specific questions about revised design guidelines for the three districts currently under its purview at its meeting Tuesday.
The HPC also voted to invite the Starkville Central Neighborhood Foundation and the Starkville Main Street Association to its meeting Dec. 19 for a presentation on SCNF’s application for downtown Starkville to join the National Register of Historic Places.
Mississippi Heritage Trust Executive Director David Preziosi presented early ideas for guidelines at the Sept. 27 HPC meeting. After the presentation, the commission decided to resolve debates about specific topics in the guidelines at a later meeting, producing specific information for Preziosi to use in his first draft by Dec. 1.
Commission Chairman Michael Fazio said he wanted a thorough but succinct discussion, and the commission was able to vote on nine individual guideline topics in an hour.
“I would say that certainly this group has exhibited discipline throughout all of our meetings, but we need some real discipline this evening because these are potentially ornate discussions that could go on forever,” Fazio said. “We certainly don’t want to cut anyone off from something they want to say, but if we can be very succinct, really, we need to deal with each of these items separately.”
An extensively discussed topic was the use of artificial materials for siding, particularly vinyl and aluminum. Commissioners debated whether or not prohibition of artificial materials should be limited to vinyl and aluminum in particular and whether or not homeowners should be able to get approval from the board to use it. The commission did agree quickly that building owners in historic districts who already have vinyl siding would be, as Fazio said, “grandfathered in.”
“If people have metal siding up, they don’t have to take it down, but they cannot add it,” Fazio said. “That would be true for new construction as well as rehabilitation.”
Ultimately, the board passed a motion to prevent the use of aluminum and vinyl siding in historic districts from the passage of the new guidelines forward. They also agreed property owners should be required to get approval from the commission to use HardiePlank fiber cement siding.
Other measures passed for the first draft of the guidelines included allowing for storm windows and doors, discouraging the use of security and burglar bars, encouraging rehabilitation of existing exterior doors and requiring HPC approval for replacement of exterior doors.
The HPC also discussed a report from Preziosi surveying historic resources in downtown Starkville as part of SCNF’s application. Commissioner Tom Walker said even though SMSA is not directly involved in the application, it plans to canvass the 138 downtown building owners under their umbrella to determine how many want to be part of the NRHP system.
Walker made a motion for HPC to tell the board of aldermen it considers the application beneficial and to recommend the city contact SMSA and ask it to canvass the members as planned.
The motion did not carry as other members still had questions about the HPC’s involvement in the application.
Walker said SMSA’s application is independent from the HPC’s activities, and if downtown Starkville is accepted to NRHP, 51 percent of property owners would have to reject it to avoid inclusion. He said this contrasts strongly with HPC’s historic district policy, which requires approval 51 percent of property owners to establish a district.
“(The NRHP application) can be perceived and is being perceived as a railroad job,” Walker said. “It’s all creating controversy that doesn’t need to exist. The way to make it all go away is for us to say it’s the right thing. I’ve probably been the greatest flag-waver and nay-sayer. If there were something wrong with this, I would be jumping up and down telling you something was wrong.”
Fazio, along with others on the commission, said it was important for the whole commission to understand the NRHP application before expressing approval of it to the city.
On Nov. 3, Todd Sanders, architectural historian with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, gave a presentation on the tax ramifications downtown business owners could see from NRHP.
The board rescheduled its regular October meeting for the same day to hear the same presentation, but only Fazio, Walker and commissioner Maxine Hamilton were able to attend.
“We’re going to be a right hand doing something that the left hand may not know we are doing,” Fazio said. “We could inadvertently do harm if we’re not informed.”
Initially, Fazio said the HPC might consider waiting until January to meet with SCNF and SMSA because its regularly scheduled meeting was set for Dec. 27, posing problems for commissioners’ attendance. Walker said January would be too late, with the application too far along, so after extensive discussion of schedules, the commissioners agreed to move the meeting to Dec. 19.

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