By STEVEN NALLEY
The Starkville Historic Preservation Commission decided at its meeting Tuesday to open its preservation guidelines with a form building owners could fill out to apply for certificates of appropriateness and a brief section to help them determine whether such applications are necessary.
A certificate of appropriateness, or COA, is the instrument HPCs use to grant people permission to externally alter buildings they own in compliance with preservation guidelines. HPC Chair Michael Fazio said the COA procedure functions as the public’s entry point into preservation guidelines, so he wants it to be as user-friendly as possible.
To that end, Fazio said he and City Planner Ben Griffith reviewed COA procedures from several Mississippi cities. Griffith said it was City Building Inspector Bob Hall who discovered another COA procedure from Franklin, Tenn., which both Griffith and Fazio then wanted to emulate. Fazio said Franklin has boiled its COA procedure down to a two-page form with brief instructions.
“I’m not saying this is what we ought to do,” Fazio said. “I’m saying the streamlined quality is what we should be going for.”
Griffith then presented a similar mockup form for Starkville, and other commissioners expressed approval. Briar Jones was among them, but he said he wanted an additional area of the form for building owners who do not need to go before the HPC.
The preservation guidelines HPC is planning allow building owners to make some exterior alterations by right instead of getting permission from the HPC. Jones said he wants building owners in the former category to be able to use the form as a record of the city’s approval, so that if anyone questions whether they went through the COA process, they can prove it.
“It’s amazing how much information is on this piece of paper,” Jones said. (Griffith’s mockup is) a beautiful document. I just want that one extra box.”
Fazio said he also wanted a way for building owners to determine whether or not they needed to go before the HPC. He said some Mississippi HPCs use flowcharts, but he wants one more streamlined than others he has seen, and he is open to such alternatives as narratives or frequently asked questions.
The commission set a work session to further discuss the COA process for 5:30 p.m. March 15 in the City Hall building department.
In other news, representatives from St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, led by Charles Yost, appeared at the meeting expressing concern about the local historic districts the guidelines would create. Fazio said there are already national historic districts on Greensboro Street, Nash Street and the Overstreet area, and the new districts would use the same boundaries. Griffith said these boundaries on Nash Street do not include the church’s property, but Maxine Hamilton said this has changed because the church has purchased property in the districts for future development. Yost then explained these plans.
“They have a three-to-five-year building program for the two houses, one of which has been demolished and one house is remaining right now, near the convenience store,” Yost said. “The church has proposed to build a parking lot and a new parish hall.”
Fazio said it was too early for church representatives to come forward with concerns because the historic districts are still in the formative stages.
“When we get our guidelines done, there will then be a public hearing, like all city matters, at which time citizens will come forward and make whatever statements that they will,” Fazio said. “At this point, we can hear you and hear your concerns about church property, but there’s really not an opportunity to be for or against anything because we don’t have our mechanism in place yet.”