By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Public hearing set on proposed Flowery Branch historic district
Photos of downtown Flowery Branch where there are talks of redefining historic boundaries. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

The second and final public hearing on Flowery Branch’s proposed new historic district boundaries is set for 6 p.m. Thursday at Historic Depot on Railroad Avenue.

Flowery Branch City Council and the city’s Historic Preservation Commission are holding the meeting to get input on the boundaries, which include about 80 properties on and between Atlanta Highway and Gainesville Street.

The council is set to vote July 16 to establish the boundaries, repealing a 2001 ordinance that created two districts per the state’s Historic Preservation Act of 1980. A final vote is set for Aug. 6.

The proposed boundaries emerged as an issue during a review in 2005 and 2006 of the city’s comprehensive plan.

"Citizens had asked that we look into re-evaluating the boundaries because they seemed to be oddly drawn," said James Riker, Flowery Branch planning director.

A survey by Gainesville-based The Jaeger Company concluded the boundaries "had not been drawn in an optimum manner the first time," Riker said.

The firm further observed that "perhaps the boundary we’re proposing now makes more sense from a perspective of including more properties that are considered contributing to the historic district," he added.

Current boundaries, for example, include the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

"That clearly doesn’t make any sense whatsoever," Riker said.

"We looked at the nature of certain properties on Atlanta Highway and perhaps what they might be best utilized for," he said. "... And as a result, we kind of shrank the area."

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.

According to its report, Jaeger said it evaluated structures regardless of whether they appeared to meet National Register standards.

Architectural "integrity," rather than a building’s condition, was used to determine whether the structure "retains sufficient physical features ... to accurately convey a sense of the past," the report states.

Riker has said that 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.

Carol Bannister, who owns Timeless Treasures on Atlanta Highway with husband Billy, said she doesn’t support the new boundary lines because property owners can’t "opt out" of the district.

"I’ve never felt like the government should tell you what to do with your property," she said. "I do understand they don’t want people doing all kinds of crazy things (with their property)."

Timeless Treasures, which isn’t currently in one of the two historic districts, is housed in a 100-year-old building that has served as a gas station, grocery store and Greyhound bus station.

"We didn’t change the looks a whole lot," Bannister said.

Property owners can obtain state or federal money as part of efforts to renovate structures, according a "fact sheet" Flowery Branch has posted on its Web site, www.flowery

W. Ray Luce of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Historic Preservation District applauded the city’s efforts in a July 1 letter to Mary Jones, who heads the Flowery Branch Historic Preservation Commission.

"As an (existing) example of a turn-of-the-century railroad town, it is fitting that this significant collection be designated and preserved," he wrote.

"This designation effort marks a milestone in the long-term commitment to preserving your local historic resources."

Regional events