If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
Please enter your email and we will send your username and password to you.
Both ordinances are anticipated to be voted on at the Wednesday, Feb. 21 council meeting at City Hall. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m.
“Demolition by neglect of historic buildings, and unregulated, new developments in historic areas, in a traditional, historic 220-plus-year-old community such as Watkinsville, produce a devastating effect on town character and quality of life,” the Watkinsville Historic Preservation Ordinance said.
In recent history, the city of Watkinsville has allowed for the demolition of a historic house on South Main Street and the future demolition of a home off Barnett Shoals Road.
With the help of City Attorney Joe Reitman, Campbell said they were put into contact with University of Georgia Professor and Graduate Coordinator of the Master of Historic Preservation Program James Reap.
Reap tasked his class to research all 130 historic preservation ordinances in Georgia, starting with the state model, and create an ordinance best fit for the city of Watkinsville.
Tucker said the ordinance was mostly dictated by Georgia law but felt Reap’s class did a great job individualizing it to Watkinsville.
“It was really a wonderful exercise,” Campbell said. “They went above and beyond, and they want to continue working with us.”
Since Reap’s class completed the ordinance, Campbell said they tweaked it with Reitman and provided it to the mayor and council for review before it’s brought to them for a vote.
“The one line I really liked that I think sums it up for me is ‘historic preservation can preserve historic homes and allow new development to be blended into existing historic areas without compromising the unique character of Watkinsville,’” Campbell said. “I think that’s kind of the ultimate goal of this.”
Campbell said Reap will continue to work with the city and wants to hold a charette for citizens to learn more about historic preservation.
If passed, the ordinance will provide the framework needed to create a five-member Historic Commission.
Tucker said the ordinance doesn’t list specific areas or properties but if passed, the commission that’ll be established will create a list, and public input will be needed.
“We don’t have tons of historic homes and we are…losing them,” Tucker said. “I feel like this is essential to stop that loss. Plus, there are a lot of grants and tax refunds and rebates. There’s a lot of financial opportunities for homeowners and business owners, if we actually do this.”
Watkinsville Mayor Brian Brodrick said the commission will have the authority to recommend historic sites, receive funds, adopt guidelines and applications, among other things.
Brodrick said the commission will be supported by staff, legal counsel and Reap’s class but encouraged the council to think carefully about future members of the commission and ensure they represent the city’s historical pockets.’
Tucker added that the council will have oversight on members and can propose property or district designation. She explained that the ordinance won’t require historic homeowners to do things like add a specific gable to their home.
“It’s going to say you can’t have a hole in your roof, you can’t have your front porch rotting away from your house,” Tucker said. “Then it does spell out, like the things the city can do to the point that we can actually fix them and then put a tax lien on the property in order to recover that cost.”
In both instances of the recent demolitions permits granted to homes on South Main Street and Barnett Shoals road, those homes were vacant and in severe disrepair.
Reitman said the building regulations code passed around 2019 established a required “basic modicum of maintenance,” and the city’s ability to place a tax lien spelled out in the ordinance is a last resort putting a “finer point” on that code.
The Watkinsville Corridor Design Ordinance said it establishes a uniform procedure for protection, enhancement, perpetuation and use of city corridors.
“We don’t want those historic corridors coming into Watkinsville that create such a beautiful first impression, to suddenly turn into something totally different over time, because…someone carves out four or five blocks and decides to build, homes or structures that are completely inconsistent with the history of the city,” Brodrick said.
Brodrick said there’s a lack of clarity on design guidance and the idea is to encourage new development to be consistent with what’s been done historically.
“These are important ordinances where we’re going to need input and feedback,” Brodrick said. “And if we can’t get to where we’re comfortable adopting them this month, we won’t.”