City council to hold public hearing on proposed historic district

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By Meaghan Downs

The creation of a Lawrenceburg historic district will have to wait until the city council hears from the people.
The council voted 4-1 to table its final recommendation and to schedule a public hearing allowing property owners to express concerns or support for the establishment of a historic district.  
City council member Ken Evans was absent from the April 8 meeting.
Council member Bobby Durr made the first motion, saying he’d like to hold a public hearing before the council moves forward on anything involving the district.  
“There’s too many unanswered questions, that’s the main thing,” Durr said after the meeting. “I don’t want to push something on the people until they know what it’s going to be.”
City council member George Geoghegan was the sole dissenting vote for the public hearing, saying another hearing would already need to be held regarding historic district standards — the main concern of many property owners attending the first and only public hearing on the historic district in December 2011.
“That wouldn’t be necessary because it goes back to the historic district commission to adopt paint colors and things like that,” Geoghegan, who was chairman of the historic district commission at the time of the 2011 public hearing, said. “It goes to another public hearing.”
Council member Thomas Vaughn added that during that meeting, an “overwhelming number of people did not want the district.”
“But that was because of paint colors and other things,” Geoghegan replied. “And at that time, there would be another public hearing if the commission decides that.”
Geoghegan also contested the Planning and Zoning commission’s tardiness in applying for an extension from the city council to review a historic district recommendation. Geoghegan said the board had exceeded the 60-day and 90-day time periods provided in the two statutes cited in the board’s recommendation to the council.
“Our ordinance says 60 days, but we’ve exceeded the 90 days,” Geoghegan said. “The statute may even supersede. I mean, it is arguable.”
City attorney Robert Myles said since the council granted the planning and zoning board the extension the board requested, the council has 60 days from April 8 to hold a public hearing and take action on the board’s recommendation.
“It is my feeling that the statute, having now been presented, you have the 60 days forward to action on their request for their recommendation,” Myles said. “I think at this point on, while it very well may be arguable, there are a thousand things done everyday, if you want to litigate it, it is certainly possible …  you have 60 days from today’s date to take whatever action you deem appropriate.”  
As of Monday night’s meeting, the city council has 60 days to either recommend the creation of a historic district or to vote down the establishment of a district.
If the council were to take no action on planning and zoning’s recommendation, the historic district would be automatically established.
Durr’s motion stipulated that a public hearing would be held prior to the council’s May 13 meeting, but no date had been scheduled as of press time.
The Rev. Robert Ehr, representing First Baptist Church located on Main Street across from city hall, commended the city council for taking the time to hold a public hearing.
Ehr said he was attending Monday night’s meeting for the express purpose of hearing the current status of the historic district.
“We have concerns if this historical district was passed, what restrictions that would place on churches like ours as we seek to grow and expand,” Ehr said.
According to the historic district designation report provided to the city council, about 172 properties are currently included in the current district boundaries.
If a historic district were established, every property owner in charge of a designated historic property would need to keep all exterior portions of the property in good repair, according to the city ordinance on the historic district.
Property owners with land, homes or businesses in the historic district are to apply for a certificate from the commission before undertaking new work on a historic property.
The historic district ordinance also states “any person violating any of the provisions of this chapter shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be fined not less than $50, nor more than $500 for each offense. Each day’s violation shall constitute a separate offense.”
No specific violations are listed in the 2006 historic district ordinance.

Other business
Spring hydrant flushing will begin April 22, and spring clean up for the city will begin April 29.
Since the water tank near Wild Turkey has been filled, Public Works Director Larry Hazlett said the water tanks on Center Street may be taken down in May.