By Nick Nunn, Staff Writer

After adjourning from the October meeting of Madison’s Historic Preservation Commission (HPC), the HPC members discussed what Flynn Clyburn described as the HPC’s “big PR problem.”

Clyburn began the conversation by noting that the public only discussed the HPC in a negative way although HPC members feel like they are doing nothing wrong in their roles on the HPC.

“We know that what we are doing is interpreting the requests based on the guidelines,” said Clyburn. “We always offer suggestions. We’re getting treated like we are bad guys.”

Clyburn insisted that no HPC members come into meetings with their minds made up before they are able to hear from the applicants directly.

HPC Chair Marti Jessup stated that many people that live in the historic district love how Madison is preserved but want to be able to alter their historic homes in any way they please.

“Some people like to ignore that they are in the historic district,” said Jessup.

Clyburn began discussing ways that the HPC may be able to “neutralize” its reputation in the community and mentioned the possibility of running monthly reports written by HPC members in the newspaper to discuss HPC guidelines.

HPC Member Steve Schaefer said that the HPC would benefit from a “good, old-fashioned PR campaign,” which could include updating the information on the HPC’s website or creating a Facebook page for the HPC.

Schaefer mentioned that the HPC could use the Facebook page to show how applicants proceed from submitting their proposed applications to receiving their Certificate of Appropriateness (COA).

Promoting why the HPC is an advantage to Madison’s historic district is what is most important, said Schaefer.

HPC Consultant Ken Kocher suggested that the HPC could provide exit polls to HPC applicants, which could then be presented at the Madison Mayor and City Council meetings.

HPC Member Chris McCauley added that they could use an online internet survey site as a means of getting feedback from applicants.

Jessup commented that the only applicants that say anything about the HPC are the ones whose applications are rejected, and that the approvals don’t get spread around as well.

“Negative stories just play better,” added Clyburn.

During the meeting, the HPC approved an application by Patricia Stokes for alterations to a rear elevation at 328 E Washington Street, and an application for the demolition of a garage and construction of a garage at 668 N. Main Street.

An application for the removal of a chimney at 399 W. Jefferson Street, was also on the agenda, but the application was withdrawn from the agenda due to the absence of the applicant.