Jacksonville City Council adopts historical periods of significance

JACKSONVILLE — Rules that govern building and remodeling activities in the historic core moved a step closer to a rewrite with the recent adoption of four historical periods of significance.

The periods will become a guide for regulations in the area for both the comprehensive plan and municipal code. Until the code is revised, property owners and city officials will continue to struggle with the current version.

"There's too many things to even say. Title 18 needs to be rewritten," said Planning Director Amy Stevenson, when asked to detail problems with present regulations. Title 18 governs historic preservation and design criteria.

On May 15, the City Council adopted the periods, a requirement for inclusion in the National Parks Service program that designates a National Historic Landmark District, a status the town has held since 1966.

The district encompasses 326 acres, and 33 percent of its structures are deemed to contribute to its historic character.

"The periods are required by SHPO (the State Historic Preservation Office). Everything we write in 18 has to relate to those periods," said Stevenson.

"What we are trying to do is put down a measuring stick instead of having to work with a different issue coming up every year," said City Councilman Dan Winterburn. "We need to figure out what's significant based on the new guidelines."

The city's primary period of significance is 1852 to 1884. Structures from that period will be given the highest level of scrutiny. The years 1884 to 1920 make up the secondary period. Other periods are 1920 to 1945 and 1945 to 1966, when the town was nominated as a landmark district.

The town's Historical and Architectural Review Commission recommended the periods following public comments in December, January and February.

A $14,000 Certified Local Government grant from the state's Heritage Commission will be used to hire a consultant to rewrite the codes, said Stevenson. The city must match the grant and probably will do so by in-kind work, she said.

"HARC has jurisdiction over Title 18," said Stevenson. "It will be reviewed by HARC, then it has to go to the council (for approval)."

Consultants are being interviewed for the rewrite, said Stevenson. After one is hired, HARC will form a subcommittee to assist with the revisions.

"I want it to be business folks, homeowners, members of the community," Stevenson said of the subcommittee makeup.

Stevenson hopes to have the work done by the end of the year.

Council members also discussed a suggestion from the State Historic Preservation Office that a limited moratorium on development within the district be imposed until the codes are revised.

"Until we get some revisions of the document that make more sense than this one does, putting in a moratorium was suggested," said City Administrator Jeff Alvis.

But council members decided they did not want to pursue a moratorium, said Alvis. The City Council trusts HARC and city staff to make good decisions until the code is revised, he said.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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