Historic value of NE Historic District questioned
By Stephanie Johns
Madison Historic Commission (HPC) members discussed the historic value of the northeastern portion of the current historic district and considered removing it.
HPC Consultant Ken Kocher later explained that the portion under discussion is the area beyond College Drive on N. Main Street.
Commissioners Richard Simpson and Chris McCauley conducted a survey of that area. Simpson recommended that the HPC consider deleting it from the historic district.
“The majority of structures in that district have lost their integrity or are non-contributing resources,” he said. The exception to this: the yellow house at 762 N. Main St., a gable front cottage from the 1890s.
According to Kocher, “integrity” for the HPC means that the materials and form have been maintained so it retains its historic look. “Non-contributing resources” are those buildings that have not been around long enough – 50 years or longer – so are not called historic.
Simpson said they did not survey properties on College Drive.
“We’re not proposing to remove them,” he said. “It’s a good buffer in the district.”
Commissioner Flynn Clyburn asked what would happen if they removed that portion from the historic district.
HPC Consultant Ken Kocher said it would have to go through a de-designation process in which they ran ads in the local paper, sent out letters to the homeowners affected, held a public hearing, and then sent their request to the Madison City Council.
The Morgan County Planning and Zoning Commission, subdivision regulations, and the Corridor Design Commission would then be responsible for this district so it would not be without oversight, according to Kocher.
Clyburn then asked about the advantage of removing that part of the district.
McCauley replied that the HPC would not face as many demolition requests and that they would not have to regulate it as the historic part is no longer there.
In particular, she mentioned that a house had burned and because of its location within the historic district, the homeowner was required to rebuild according to HPC guidelines even though the other houses around it were non-confirming and non-contributing.
“That’s just not fair, I don’t think,” she said.
Kocher agreed that the area under discussion does not identify with the rest of the historic district.
One member of the public, Jim McManus, asked about a recent push to put a housing development for senior citizens within the historic district.
Clyburn recommended the HPC take no action at this time so as not to give either those in favor of or opposed to that development ammunition.
Commissioner Stratton Hicky said he saw it just the opposite.
“Why are we fighting to keep these properties in the district?” he asked. “I don’t want to be used as a shield in this.”
Commissioner Steve Schaefer agreed with Hicky.
“Will we ever be able to get away from that?” he asked.
In the end, though, commissioners agreed to wait so no vote was taken.
Printed in the December 20, 2012 edition