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Proposed Flowery Branch historic district debated

POSTED: July 14, 2008 5:00 a.m.

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FLOWERY BRANCH — Local residents and property owners pleaded Thursday night for Flowery Branch City Council to leave them out of a proposed historic district for the town or kill plans for the district altogether.

"What this town needs is construction, not preservation," said Dan Puckette during a public hearing at the Historic Depot on Railroad Avenue. "I don’t think you need to ram this down people’s throats. It’s their property — let them do what they want."

Pam White said, "Please, don’t force (the new district) on us."

A minority of the people spoke in favor of the proposed new historic boundaries, which come before the council for a first reading Wednesday.

Historic Preservation Committee member Tara Malone said statistics show that property values will climb, contrary to what some people think.

"I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding out there," said Dinah Wayne, another committee member. "And it’s our job to make sure the public knows what this is all about."

City Council and the preservation commission held the hearing to get input on the boundaries, which include about 80 properties on and between Atlanta Highway and Gainesville Street.

The council is looking to repeal a 2001 ordinance that created two districts per the state’s Historic Preservation Act of 1980. A final vote is set for Aug. 6.

James Riker, Flowery Branch planning director, said residents had asked the city to look at redrawing what appeared to be "oddly drawn" boundaries. Current boundaries, for example, include the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

County and city governments can pass laws under the Georgia Historic Preservation Act providing for the "protection, enhancement, perpetuation and use of places, districts, sites, buildings, structures and works of art having a special historical, cultural or aesthetic interest or value."

Flowery Branch’s proposed ordinance says that the new district "contains structures and sites which have special character and special historic and aesthetic values" and that "represent one or more periods or styles of architecture typical of one or more eras."

The city’s Main Street is on the National Register of Historic Places.

And as far as some residents were concerned, that should be the limit of Flowery Branch’s historic district.

"It’s as far as you need to go," Puckette said.

Most people complained that creation of the district meant more governmental control in their lives — something they didn’t want.

"I don’t understand how you can take away people’s personal property rights," said Stuart Pheil, after telling city officials he didn’t want his 1972 home in the district.

One of the concerns of residents was having to go through governmental processes if they wanted to alter their home in some way.

"Citizens should be allowed to decide for themselves if they want to make a change," White said. "Don’t add to the expense they have to go through."

Valerie Harris said she doesn’t see town folk "destroying their property."

"They’re going to improve it," she said, "and I don’t see the government coming in here and telling us how to do it."

She added that the city already has zoning regulations. "If we go by the rules we already have, I think we’ll be OK."

Kellin Dobbs, a resident whose firm Hortman & Dobbs is developing the $15 million multi-use Old Town Flowery Branch in the downtown area, said he wouldn’t debate whether residents should be included or excluded from the historic district.

However, "from a developer standpoint, we embrace and appreciate" the help and guidance given by the preservation commission and council in the project "at no expense to me."

Malone said "the purpose of a historic district is to aid this community."

"If a neighborhood does not band together ... then there will be an erosion of this community," she said.

"People love this community, and the purpose of something like this is to help maintain the charm that everyone is so fighting to keep."



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