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Council, public discuss historic district ordinance

News Staff Writer

Four years after the Atmore City Council approved the establishment of Atmore Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) as a prelude to establishment of a downtown historic district, the city still has no historic preservation ordinance in place. But one is apparently in the works.
City Attorney Larry Wettermark and Taylor Stewart, Director of Preservation Services for Landmarks Foundation of Montgomery, fielded questions from HPC members, local property owners and city council members during a marathon city council meeting held Monday, June 26.
The meeting lasted nearly 58 minutes, with more than two-thirds of that devoted to the discussion of the impending municipal legislation that will finalize and formally legitimize the commission and the district.
District 3’s Eunice Johnson was unable to attend the meeting, but the other four council members, along with a half-full meeting room, listened as the lawyer and the historic preservation consultant explained that more work is needed before a concrete, enforceable ordinance can be presented for council action.
“The city has already taken several steps to define an area that has historic significance in terms of its architecture,” said Wettermark, who noted the district has already been certified through the National Parks Service. “I think there are 114 actual property owners in the proposed district. As far as actually drawing lines for the district, that hasn’t been done yet. Rules and regulations have not been drafted yet, either.”
Stewart has worked up a draft of an ordinance for governing the district, one that follows state law as far as the exteriors of the buildings within it. She said buildings may be added to the district map before it is finalized and pointed out that HPC members may also designated structures outside the defined boundaries through separate actions for each.
“I’ve issued a draft of what needs be in the ordinance,” she said. “The city council has to look at the boundaries of the (proposed) district. Some properties that didn’t necessarily meet the level of significance for the federal level, you could have in your boundaries at the local level.”
Some concern was expressed that the proposed district includes Trinity Episcopal Church but not First Baptist Church, and suggestions were made for expanding the district to include Patterson Chapel and the former site of the building that became the city’s first public hospital.
After more than 45 minutes of discussion, Mayor Jim Staff brought the discussion to a close.
“We might have to have a night-time meeting,” Staff said. “We’ve got a whole lot more questions than we’ve got answers for.”
In other business, the four council members:
*Held the first reading of a set of minimum standards for Atmore Municipal Airport. Wettermark told council members the airport has no written minimum standards, and that such standards are not required by the Federal Aviation Administration.
“But the airport gets federal grants from the FAA, so it’s suggested you have written minimum standards, which is essentially an operating manual. It’s fairly complicated and goes far beyond what the airport is used for now. But it’s a roadmap for what can happen in the future, a way of getting ahead on those issues.”
*Denied a request for a discounted special events license for Atmore RC, a group of local remote controlled cars enthusiasts. The issue was tabled at the last council meeting.
“We don’t really need to change the ordinance, and that’s what would have to happen if we discounted licenses. And, if we get into discounted licenses, I think we’re getting into trouble,” Staff said.
The council voted 4-0 to deny the request.
*Approved an amended proposal from the FAA for the cost of constructing six new hangars at the local airport. The original cost proposal submitted by the city called for a total of $244,356.54. An FAA audit determined that the project should cost almost $17,000 more, so an amended cost projection of $260,994.93 was approved. FAA is providing a grant that will pay 95 percent of the cost.
“Apparently, our bid was a little bit too cheap,” Staff said. “We need to adopt what they recommend.”