By STEVEN NALLEY
The Starkville Historic Preservation Commission recommended approval of boundaries and standards for local historic districts without any amendments at its meeting Tuesday, despite multiple residents appearing at the meeting to ask them to exclude their properties from the districts.
Starkville Chief Administrative Officer Lynn Spruill said this approval concluded HPC’s work until the Starkville Board of Aldermen made its own decision about HPC’s recommendation.
“The hard work, in terms of getting this together, is done,” Spruill said. “Unless something else comes up, I would not anticipate any further action until we’ve got a planner in place.”
Jonathan Buckner, Sandra Powe and Brenda Montgomery-Chambliss all asked for their properties to be excluded at the meeting, and commission chair Michael Fazio said he had also received letters regarding Powe’s exemption request and an exemption request Dan Craig made during HPC’s public hearing on the districts in January. No other citizens in the audience commented during the meeting.
The first to speak was Buckner, who said he represented members of his family who owned significant property on Washington Street. While he was aware of a public hearing notice published in the newspaper for the January hearing, these family members lived out of town but still paid taxes on Starkville property, he said, and they did not receive notice by mail.
Buckner also asked if any properties had been exempted from the district to this point, and Fazio said they had not. Poe then came forward with a request to exclude all property she owned with the exception of 410 South Jackson St., and Fazio asked if she had a specific rationale that set her properties apart, a reason why her property should be excluded and other properties shouldn’t.
“We are concerned about the restrictions,” Powe said. “I’m just saying, as a property owner, I do not want my properties in the district.”
When the time came for the commission to discuss recommending district approval to the board of aldermen, Tom Walker asked the commission if it wanted to consider Powe’s and Craig’s requests. He also asked Fazio if those properties were central to the districts or on the edges. Fazio said Powe’s property was in the middle.
“In the case of Mr. Craig’s property, it’s in that fairly large notch on Lafayette Street we agreed we would include to avoid these jagged edges (on the property borders) where you’ve got properties on one side of the street but not the other,” Fazio said.
Powe then said if both her properties and the Buckner family properties were excluded, the edges would be smoother. Commissioner Jason Barrett then asked Poe why she wanted to leave 410 South Jackson St. out, and she said she believed that house contributed to a historic district.
“I just like the property,” Powe said. “Our son-in-law is interested in restoring that house.”
Fazio then said that if the HPC were to exclude any given properties from its districts, historic preservation would have to drive the rationale.
“Simply hearing someone say, ‘Well, I don’t want to be in’ would be no different than someone who isn’t in the district saying they want to be in,” Fazio said. “To respond positively, I would have to hear something other than, ‘That’s my desire.’”
Walker then said he wanted to clarify using Craig’s request as an example.
“Mr. Craig said he had duplexes (in the proposed districts) that had no historic character,” Walker said. “What Mr. Fazio is asking for is a reason like Mr. Craig had. I agree with him. You aren’t giving us anything to work on. You’re saying (you) want to exclude it because (you) don’t want to deal with the constraints.”
Buckner then came forward and said his family had one standalone property and a triplex on South Washington Street that did not hold significant historical value, and he asked the HPC to exclude them. Montgomery-Chambliss also came forward and asked the district to exclude two of her three properties in the Overstreet district.
“(One of them) is actually a business,” Montgomery-Chambliss said. “I don’t view it as that historical. The home I live in, I want to keep it in (the district). There’s a small cinderblock apartment next to it that I have, and it’s certainly not historic.”
Fazio said the use of the building as a business was a zoning issue and irrelevant to the historic district issue. He also said the HPC invested significant time arriving at the boundaries it ultimately voted for, a statement Walker agreed with.
“The whole thing makes logical sense the way we’ve drawn it,” Walker said. “We spent a lot of time drawing and discussing it.”