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HPC simplifies guidelines in work session

March 15, 2012

By STEVEN NALLEY
citybeat@bellsouth.net

The Starkville Historic Preservation Commission discussed measures to further simplify elements of historic preservation guidelines in progress at its meeting Thursday.
For the past few months, the HPC has been working with Mississippi Heritage Trust Executive Director David Preziosi on design guidelines for buildings in local historic districts. The commission revisited an application form attached to these guidelines, which building owners can fill out to apply for certificates of appropriateness (COAs).
Historic preservation commissions use COAs to grant people permission to externally alter buildings they own in compliance with preservation guidelines.
The draft the commission reviewed was developed based on an example found in the Franklin, Tenn., HPC’s COA process, but at Thursday’s meeting, commissioners questioned the need for some categories featured on Franklin’s application form. For instance, Commission Chair Michael Fazio said he questioned the need for the form to ask for the house’s square footage.
“Would that not be a zoning issue?” Fazio said. “Why would we be the ones to gather that information?”
Some of the contested requests for information remained on the form, however. For instance, the commission initially questioned the need for building owners to submit their buildings’ heights, but Commissioner Maxine Hamilton suggested height be required only for building relocation.
“They do move whole houses, and you have to have permits to go on certain roads,” Hamilton said. “You have to know the height, whether or not you’re going to get under the power lines (and) under the bridges. It depends on how far you’re moving it how much the height plays into it.”
The commission did not take action on these discussion points, however, because only four of the commission members were present for the work session, with City Planner Ben Griffith and commissioners Tom Walker, Briar Jones and Jason Barrett absent. While the remaining four members were enough for a quorum, Fazio said he wanted these absent members’ feedback before submitting changes to Preziosi.
Fazio said he also wanted those members’ feedback on a flowchart to help building owners decide whether their projects require a COA process, which the members present also reviewed. Fazio said the flowchart draft discussed at the meeting was much clearer than examples from other cities discussed at the commission’s Feb. 29 meeting.
“(The flowchart is) nicer than any other I’ve seen,” Fazio said. “It’s very simple and readable. I wouldn’t even ask for any action on this, but ... everybody take this and study it carefully.”
Finally, the commission briefly discussed a section on roofing from Preziosi’s first draft of the guidelines at large. Fazio said he does not object to any content in the draft, but he has marked several opportunities to tighten, clarify and simplify the draft’s language. He said this intense revision would help Preziosi better understand how to phrase future segments, accelerating the revision process for those segments.
“There are so many marks on mine that the only way I can imagine dealing with it is I would fax my marked-up sheet to David, and then I would get on the phone with him,” Fazio said. “He needs to know exactly what we want.”
Fazio said he wants the commission to hold true to Preziosi’s schedule. He said the commission will review segments as Preziosi completes them, possibly reviewing more than one segment in each meeting or work session.
“Rather than (waiting for Preziosi to) complete the entire document, it just seems prudent to look at sections,” Fazio said. “It’s possible the schedule won’t be held to, but we do not want to slow him down.”

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