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The city council voted 4-1 to reject the historic district commission’s proposal for an historic district in the city of Lawrenceburg.
Council member George Geoghegan, former historic district commission chairman and sole dissenting vote, was the only council member to speak prior to the council’s vote.
“It’s obvious to me that all the historic district commission has done is set boundaries,” he said. “I think everything that has been done in the district could still be done. We don’t need to adopt any more standards than this [the Secretary of the Interior guidelines for historic properties].”
Council member Thomas Vaughn made the first motion to reject the historic district commission’s recommendation, with councilman Ken Evans seconding his motion.
Council member Sandy Goodlett excused himself from voting, saying that the historic district directly affects him.
“Probably the majority of the people involved may have benefitted from this, and for that I’m sorry,” councilman Larry Giles, who voted to reject the historic district recommendation, said after hearing Geoghegan’s comments. “We’re doing what they [property owners] want done.”
The council originally voted to form the historic district commission in 2006 and enacted a city ordinance to allow the commission to create an historic district area in Lawrenceburg.
Since then, property owners have scrutinized the scope of the historic district’s boundaries, and voiced complaints about interference with property renovations and future expansions in the city.
Other Lawrenceburg residents called for the preservation of the town’s remaining historic sites, some adding revitalization could result in economic benefits for downtown Lawrenceburg.
More than 60 people attended last month’s public hearing held by the city council, who wished to receive more input from the community before putting the historic district commission’s recommendation to a vote.
The Planning and Zoning board forwarded a recommendation in favor of the commission’s proposed district to the city council in February, with the inclusion of an “opt out” provision for landowners who do not wish to be added to the historic district area be provided.
Those for and against the historic district have criticized the opt out provision, arguing that to allow some landowners to excuse themselves from the historic district would be potentially confusing.
For those in favor of a district, they argued an opt out addition to the recommendation would render the district ineffective as a whole.
“You then won’t have a district, you’ll have a series of historic landmarks,” Geoghegan said of the opt out provision.
Bill Bryant, the current chair of the historic district commission, spoke to the council following its vote and said he plans to resign as chairman and would send a letter to the council to that effect.
“I think it was a mistake,” Bryant said of the council’s decision to reject the historic district. “We worked on this for four years and after four years, we ended up with nothing.”
Bryant expressed regret over what he called the commission’s “poor presentation” of the historic district proposal, saying the commission strived not to lobby community members to support the district’s creation.
“We weren’t the bad guys, we were the good guys,” Bryant said. “I’m so sorry that no one took this into consideration.”
The council chose not to draft an ordinance to appeal Chapter 155, the portion of the city’s ordinances that created the historic district commission and details the process of establishing an historic district.
Council member Larry Giles said he’d like to leave Chapter 155 as is in the city’s ordinances.
“At some point, when times are better, I’d hate to close down the opportunity,” Giles said.