Developer says townhouses would be compatible

JACKSONVILLE —  Historic preservation consultant George Kramer says a 17-foot-wide, three-story townhouse proposed next to the fire station would be compatible with the neighborhood, despite concerns by residents who fear the building would be incompatible with single-level homes on C Street.

The city’s Historical and Architectural Review Commission will consider a revised project application at its Wednesday meeting. Developer Veritas Corp., owned by Mark DeBoer, pulled the application from a Jan. 24 HARC session agenda. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at Jacksonville Elementary School, 655 Hueners Lane.

Veritas wants to build a two-family, 30-foot-tall residence on a 20-by-100-foot lot at 150 E. C St. One wall would be on the property line next to the firehouse. The building’s footprint would be 17 by 50 feet.

Veritas hired Kramer, of Ashland, as an expert witness. His statement is provided for HARC’s consideration, specifically its effort to evaluate the subjective language surrounding compatibility and character of new construction in Jacksonville’s historic commercial core area, Kramer wrote in a four-page report.

Kramer says the new building would be consistent with other commercial development in the block that is bordered by C, California, Fourth and Third streets. Multistory commercial buildings are located along California on the south side of the block, while smaller houses predominate on the north side of C street across from the project area, where the town’s single-story fire station is the only structure.

HARC must consider the historical context of the building in rendering a decision. Kramer argues that the California Street portion of the block, which includes several large historic structures, is the appropriate context for consideration.

But neighbor Lois Cartier disagrees.

“I think the most visually relevant (buildings) are the ones on C Street. It’s a major requirement for compatibility,” said Cartier. She noted that four single-story residences are within 200 feet of the site and that the impact on them must be taken into consideration under city codes.

Historically, C Street has been a mix of residences, farm and storage use and it has been completely different from California Street since the founding of the city, said Cartier.

The code states the mass and height of a new building should not "overwhelm" any historic building within 200 feet of the edge of the property in any direction. The four homes within 200 feet are on the National Register of Historic Places, Cartier said.

Kramer writes that “overwhelm” is a problematic, non-specific word. The fire station, the only building on the south side of C Street, is a poor model, Kramer argues, as it is too horizontal and overly hard to imitate.

Architect Carlos Delgado and Kramer worked to arrive at a design that satisfies the criteria for appropriateness and is compatible with the context of the historic commercial area, the application states.

The building's exterior would be red brick with horizontal wood siding and board and batten siding. The roof would be flat or have a gentle pitch and parapets would be located on the front and sides. Front windows would be display type.

Veritas is also seeking variances to city code. One would allow a 6-foot setback of the building from the street property line, a change from commercial district standards that call for no setback. Another would allow parking, not a requirement in the commercial district.

Kramer has worked on historic preservation issues for the city of Jacksonville in the past on a contract basis. He wrote a Historic Context Statement for the city in 1993.

Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at

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