Consultants Get Busy on Historic District Guidelines
The Southern Pines Historic District Commis-sion knows that a critical component of updating its 20-year-old guidelines is preserving the history and character of downtown.
But commission members wish last week’s public information meeting would have provided more suggestions about the best way to go about it.
“It would have been helpful if there had been more people in attendance who had gone through the process,” Commission Chair Lynn Anderson said. “That would have been a better indicator of what the challenges are. The direction will have to come from the commissioners as far as how to make the process easier and clearer.”
The commission will be assisted by Hill Studio, a Virginia-based consulting firm hired last fall.
“We’ll be trying to do things that have worked well in other communities while tailoring the update to the needs of Southern Pines,” said Glenn Stach, a landscape architect and preservation planner for Hill Studio. “We seemed to have a good cross-section of folks at the meeting, and I thought the comments were quite good. It’s obvious they would like to see the process clarified.”
Stach and Evie Slone, the firm’s director of planning, spent 30 minutes last Thursday outlining the update process and providing a timeline for completing the project before conducting a question-and-answer session.
“The guidelines need to be user-friendly, simple and easy to read,” Slone said. “We need you to tell us what we need to put in these guidelines to make it workable for you.”
Mark Caulfield, a real estate agent at Weichert Realtors LaRose & Co., said he is glad the commission is ”getting out front on the issue and getting public feedback.”
“So when I bring clients through the district I can tell them, ‘The commission is willing to work with you. It’s not going to be a problem.’ It’s good that Southern Pines is doing this,” Caulfield said.
A draft report is expected in a couple of months, with a final version by May or June.
The district encompasses 10 blocks in downtown Southern Pines from Vermont Avenue to Massachusetts Avenue between Ashe and Bennett streets.
The update is designed to complement the revision of the town’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), which has been under way for more than a year.
“Obviously, the two documents very much interact,” Town Manager Reagan Parsons said. “If you own a building within the downtown historic district, you’re subject to the UDO and the guidelines.”
Stach added that the documents “are different animals” because the UDO is “macro” and the guidelines are “micro.”
Parsons said the cost for the update was allocated in the 2011-2012 budget following a request by the commission and carried over to the current budget after work on the project did not begin until last November.
The existing historic district principles and guidelines broadly discuss color, awnings, siding, roofs, doors, windows, mechanical systems, parking, lighting, landscaping, signs new construction and demolition within the district.
Commission members believe that better illustrations and design guidance can assist property owners before they seek property improvements. They also think improved design guidance will assist commission reviews and approvals.
“We’re trying to make the guidelines less subjective,” Anderson said. “We want them to be clear and concise. Hopefully, people will have a much better sense of how to go through the process step by step.”
Anderson said such a document should save the commission and town time.
“Often, our meetings become an educational or counseling session because the current guidelines are not clear,” she said. “The new guidelines should also take a bit of the burden off the town staff. Now, they have to do a lot of coaching as people make their applications for a Certificate of Appropriate-ness.
“We want our guidelines to be user-friendly for everyone involved in the process.”
Stach said the language can often be “a stumbling block” without clear guidance.
“If we’re all on the same page,” he said, “we stand a better chance of sustaining the character of downtown Southern Pines.”
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 ot email@example.com.
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