By Joseph Mayson
A wise government takes a firm leadership role in protecting and sustaining its resources, especially its water quality, its healthy mature trees, and its unique history.
Sadly, under the guise of “protecting individual property owners’ rights,” our own City Council so far has continued to put the convenience of developers ahead of the conservation of our resources.
When we recently questioned the Mayor about the possibility of a Historic Preservation Ordinance, she replied, “Why have one if we know we are not going to put any ‘teeth’ into it?”
Why indeed? Unknown to many residents and most visitors, Sandy Springs does have a rich cultural identity and an architectural heritage which in the past 30 years of unrestrained growth has been mostly overlooked or deliberately destroyed—forever.
As long as our elected officials are unwilling to provide any protection or any incentives for protection to save our surviving historic structures, then what can they at the very least do to officially support community acceptance of this important responsibility?
In lieu of a preservation ordinance, we support the concept of a Historic Registry.
Using an updated version of the 1995 Fulton County inventory of historic structures, we could identify all those built before 1932 as well as any of particular architectural, cultural, and historic significance built since then. Sadly, most of this revision would simply be a matter of stamping many of the 1995 entries “destroyed.”
Each listed structure would be graded A, B, or C, according to its degree of age, integrity, and historical significance. Mayor and council would appoint a Historic Advisory Committee and provide a computerized flagging system within the planning department which would then notify the advisory committee of any proposed significant disturbance of a listed property.
Volunteer members of the advisory committee would then meet with the owner/developer very early in the process to make sure first that they are aware of any historical significance of the property and then to discuss ways the owner/developer might be voluntarily sensitive to the historical resource. The advisory committee would also alert the Design Review Board, the Planning Commission, and City Council to any historic sensitivity of projects. The Historic Registry would be available on the internet to everyone. It is possible the board of Heritage Sandy Springs would take on the management of such a Historic Registry and advisory committee as part of its mission.
Good leadership and foresight are quite possible even without sharp teeth.