By Katie Fallon
The city has now tabled further discussion on creating a Historic Preservation Board, despite the vocal efforts of one councilwoman.
District 6 Councilwoman Karen Meinzen McEnerny was met with a resounding silence at the city council’s July 10 work session when Mayor Eva Galambos asked who on the council would be in favor of McEnerny’s proposal to create the board.
The council passed an ordinance in December, 2005, to allow for the creation of the board, but the group was never created. McEnerny said at the work session that she wanted to activate that board at the behest of members of Heritage Sandy Springs as well as many residents.
The purpose of the board, McEnerny said, would be to have another step in the process if the owner of a historic property wanted to go through a rezoning or get a permit for a land disturbance. In addition, she also wants the board to compile a registry of historic properties in the city. That list, though, would not be sanctioned by the national or state registries.
The board, McEnerny said, would then be included in the city’s normal rezoning process.
“In my view, we need a qualified board of people that are familiar with architectural integrity, age and history to come up with a listing of properties that should be on the registry,” McEnerny said. “It only gives a level of protection so when that property goes into the redevelopment process, [the owners] would be required to meet with the board. Their review would be advisory and the ultimate decision would still remain with the council.”
Galambos said there were few qualified properties in the city that haven’t already either been redeveloped or promised by the owner to retain its historical value.
McEnerny cited a Fulton County Historic Research Survey that found 50 properties, although some have since been torn down, that qualify for national registry status. She said there are 16 houses in the city that are more than 100 years old and another 50 she believes have architectural significance.
“I’m not advocating that we put obligations on owners of historic properties,” McEnerny said. “It’s a way to protect our community’s resources.”
The council, however, did not agree with McEnerny’s proposal and suggested the board would only create another level of red tape for property owners.
“It’s not that we feel that nothing is worth protecting,” said district 4 Councilwoman Ashley Jenkins. “I just don’t want all these houses to have to go through a bunch more rigmarole. My whole goal is to rip away as much red tape as possible.”
“Being old doesn’t make it historic,” said district 2 Councilwoman Dianne Fries. “I know what historic is.”
McEnerny, however, took great offense to the council’s response.
“What I’m hearing is that the council members and the mayor do not feel that this community deserves to have its historic buildings protected by some modicum of measure,” she said.
District 3 Councilman Rusty Paul called McEnerny’s comments “salacious” and asked that the councilwoman’s remarks be stricken from the record of the work session.
“Just because we disagree with the proposal, does not mean we don’t value the history of the community, Paul said.
With further discussion of the board effectively squashed, McEnerny said she just want some sort of level of review if historic properties enter the redevelopment process, even if that review is not under the guise of a formal preservation board.