Commission to examine possible historic districts


Tim Pratt



Starkville''s newly formed Historic Preservation Commission met for the first time Tuesday and is now planning the first steps toward designating older portions of the city as "historic" and protecting them from unchecked development and modifications.


The eight-member commission was created to advise the Board of Aldermen on matters related to historic preservation in the city, including the designation of historic districts, landmarks and landmark sites. The Board of Aldermen ultimately could pass ordinances which designate older portions of the city as historic districts and landmarks based upon the Historic Preservation Commission''s recommendations.


Residents and businesses in those districts would then need city approval before making any major additions or modifications to buildings and land.



At the Historic Preservation Commission''s next meeting, scheduled for Sept. 28 in City Hall, the group will study maps of existing state and national historic districts in the city and begin the process of deciding which areas can be designated as "historic" by the Starkville Board of Aldermen.


The Greensboro Street Historic District, Nash Street Historic District and Overstreet School Historic Districts already are listed as national and/or state historic districts, but inclusion on those lists does not guarantee protection of property, said Ward 4 Alderman Richard Corey, who is serving as the board''s liaison on the Historic Preservation Commission.


"The city does not recognize these neighborhoods as historic districts, which means if there is major work proposed to be done to them that could fundamentally change the very landscape of these neighborhoods, there are no provisions or protections in place to preserve the historic integrity of these neighborhoods," Corey said.


The commission will review permit applications for alterations, construction, demolition, relocation and subdivision of structures in the newly formed historic districts.


For residents who live in city-designated historic districts, no exterior feature of any home or other resource shall be altered, relocated or demolished until after an application for a certificate of appropriateness for such work has been approved by the Historic Preservation Commission. However, the Historic Preservation Commission only will serve in an advisory capacity to the Board of Aldermen and aldermen will have to approve certificates of appropriateness before the city issues building permits.


To receive a certificate of appropriateness, all exterior alterations to a building, structure, object, site, or landscape feature must be compatible with the resource itself and other resources with which it is located, including architectural design, materials, size, color, trim and other features, according to the ordinance.


To receive a certificate of appropriateness for construction projects in Starkville''s historic districts, new structures also must be visually compatible with the surrounding environment, including height, gross volume, materials, textures, colors, patterns and roof design, among other features.


According to the city''s Historic Preservation Ordinance, an historic district can consist of a group of two or more tax parcels and their structures, and may be an entire neighborhood of structures linked by historical association or historical development. An historic district may include both residential and non-residential structures.


As part of the Historic Preservation Commission''s work between now and the Sept. 28 meeting, each member will compile a list of the pros and cons of designating certain areas as "historic" and regulating what property owners can do with their homes, buildings and land.


Commission members Thomas Walker and Michael Fazio, former dean of the College of Architecture at Mississippi State University who was elected chairman, warned the group that its job won''t always be easy, noting commission members will have to examine properties in proposed historic districts, and that not all property owners will want to be included in the city''s newly formed historic districts. City officials may have to contend with property owners who don''t want the Board of Aldermen to tell them what they can or can''t do with their homes and land, Walker warned.


The commission''s Sept. 28 meeting will take place at 5:30 p.m. in City Hall.





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