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Flowery Branch might redefine historic districts

Residents can weigh in today at public hearing

POSTED: June 22, 2008 5:02 a.m.

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New boundaries for Flowery Branch historic districts will be discussed today at the first of two public hearings.

James Riker, Flowery Branch planning director, said a survey by the Jaeger Co. suggested the city redefine its historic districts this year. He said the city has planned to draw new historic districts since 2006.

"The current boundaries extend quite a ways down Atlanta Highway, and they include properties like the sewer treatment plant," Riker said. "So there was thought that maybe the districts as they were originally drawn perhaps needed more thought and revision ... and perhaps there were more appropriate properties to be put in that district."

The proposed boundaries may augment some portions of the historic districts while diminishing other parts, Riker said.

Keyes Williamson, a landscape architect with the Jaeger Co., said there are now two local Flowery Branch historic districts and one historic district along the city’s Main Street that is on the National Register of Historic Places. Williamson said he reviewed about 135 buildings that are at least 50 years old in the historic districts.

Riker said historic districts do not restrict property owners’ use, but do encourage better design through a review process guided by the city’s Historic Preservation Commission. For example, the city’s historic preservation ordinance required developers of the mixed-use Old Town project planned for the downtown area to be approved by the historic commission before it would be eligible for City Council review.

Williamson said owners of properties in the national historic district can apply for tax credits when rehabilitating properties. And Riker said historic districts do not necessarily prohibit owners from demolishing aged structures within historic boundaries.

Also, at the June 4 Flowery Branch City Council meeting, the city passed a new historic preservation ordinance to differentiate between major and minor projects within the historic districts. Minor projects include maintenance repairs and small projects and no longer require historic commission approval.

Riker said historic districts also protect natural and cultural resources. He said the districts are implemented to protect the investments of owners and residents, and are a tool to promote community involvement and tourism.

He said the Old Town project that could be moving into Flowery Branch this fall "brings a new fresh look at redeveloping our downtown area," and brings high-quality and high-dollar investment to the district.

Part of the project’s appeal is its commitment to maintain the historic flavor of downtown Flowery Branch that will enhance the new streetscape design, he said.

"We’re excited about seeing the private development community seeing our downtown area as a viable option for redevelopment," Riker said. "I think a key component of that is still being able to maintain our historic character here."

The public hearing will also field citizen input regarding an annexation request by Capstone 1 LLC for a 2.78-acre tract on the corner of Hog Mountain and Spout Springs roads. The developer intends to construct a Walgreens and a small retail store on the site.



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