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Hearing set for historic nomination

April 16, 2012

The Starkville Central Neighborhood Foundation will host a public hearing on downtown Starkville's nomination for the National Register of Historic Places at the Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum Monday at 5:30 p.m.

Vicki Myers, Certified Local Government Coordinator with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History's historic preservation division, said part of NRHP's process requires MDAH to conduct a public hearing explaining what it means for a district to join the register and what the district's boundaries would be. She said this public hearing must be held 30 days before the nomination goes before the Mississippi Historic Preservation Professional Review Board on May 17.

Myers said Bill Gatlin, national register coordinator with MDAH, will explain the details of the NRHP process, including processes for those who want to send letters of support or rejection for the NRHP nomination. It takes letters of rejection from 50 percent plus one of the district's building owners to stop a district from joining the register once MHPPRB approves it, she said, but the district can join the register without letters of support.

"If there are 100 property owners, and 51 object, then the review board will not even send it to the (U.S. Department of the Interior, which administers NRHP)," Myers said. "It's only if we get that many objections that it does not move forward. We don't have to get that many support to make it move forward."

Gatlin will also address misconceptions about NRHP, Myers said. For instance, she said, it's a common misconception that the NRHP requires building owners within its districts to comply with certain rules and regulations.

"Nobody's going to say that you have to do a certain use, that you have to maintain it and keep it in repair," Myers said, "but if somebody with a historic building would like to do some repairs, they are eligible for certain state and federal tax credits."

Myers said NRHP districts also do not necessarily become local-level historic districts. Several examples of historic districts exist which are either one or the other, she said.

"In fact, Starkville already has a couple of national districts," Myers said "It's fully up to the local commission to make them local districts, but that hasn't been done yet."

The Starkville Historic Preservation Commission passed a resolution of support for the NRHP nomination December 19, but not before commissioner Tom Walker questioned the likelihood of an NRHP district not becoming a local historic district.

"I understand these two processes are different, but I've talked with some people at the national level," Walker said. "It is very common that once you get a national register designation that it becomes a local district. It's logical, because you want to protect the buildings."

Another CLG coordinator with MDAH, Michelle Jones, was present at the December meeting. She said Starkville's own national register nominations for districts in the Overstreet school district, Nash Street and Greensboro took place 30 years before a local district designation mechanism was in place. She said there were also exceptions in Vicksburg, but Walker said there were specific reasons for that. Jones then said there could be specific reasons for an exception in Starkville, and it was too early in the application process to know for sure.

Walker said he would also prefer to have a single petition which property owners could sign. He said the reason he wants the petition was not because he wants the NRHP district defeated. In fact, he said, he believes it would not gather the needed votes even with the petition.

"It isn't going to happen," Walker said. "What you're going to be creating is a situation where everybody's going to feel like they had a say. The way y'all are talking about is a situation (where) when anybody asks me, I will say, 'That's a railroad job.' There's no way you could possibly get enough stuff to turn it around. You're creating a perception you don't want to create."

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