The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

News

November 30, 2009

Residents want veto of historic commission amendment

About a half-dozen residents of the city’s historical districts met with Athens Mayor Dan Williams Monday to ask him to veto an amendment to the city’s historical district ordinance.

On Nov. 23, the City Council voted 3-to-2 to approve an amendment to the ordinance that would give the city the option of a becoming a Certified Local Government with the ability to designate for nomination certain buildings to the National Register of Historic Places. Officials say the designation would allow the city to apply for restoration grants for buildings around the square and elsewhere.

Councilmen Harold Wales and Jimmy Gill, who voted against the measure, say they had received numerous emails and phone calls from residents protesting the amendment.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend some of those who oppose the amendment hit the streets in the Beaty and Houston historic districts to gather signatures on a petition asking the mayor to veto the amendment. They collected 124 signatures, which Williams acknowledged was a large percentage of historic district residents.

“It’s a separate issue from a historic district,” said Carlene Freehauf of the Beaty District. “That (the amendment) is for buildings on the square, and historic districts are private homes.”

Bobbie Patton, also a Beaty District resident, said the auspices under which the historic districts and the commissions which oversee them were organized was the Alabama Register of Landmarks & Heritage of 1982.

“But in 2001 they added more restrictions,” said Patton. “Now you have to have permission to make restorations and permission to cut a tree.”

Robert Baker said he is opposed to such “vague” terminology in the city’s ordinance as “aesthetically pleasing.”

“It’s not definitive,” said Baker. “It’s left up to the commission if something is ‘aesthetically pleasing’ and not the owner. It also bothers me that the commission can write in rules and restrictions after it’s been passed.”

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