“The decisions HPC are making now seem to be different. Some people feel we aren’t the historic preservation commission any more, we are the historical development district commission now,” Commission Chairman Tony Landers told city council members at last week’s joint workshop.
The commission recently evaluated plans for City Walk, a new luxury apartment complex slated to replace the existing low-income Frazier Street Apartments.
While City Walk is within the boundaries of the historic district, making it subject to HPC review, the project is actually governed by the new Groveway Overlay, which puts more weight on layout and overall appearance rather than compliance with historic construction details.
It was an unfamiliar role for HPC members, who approved the plans unanimously based solely on Groveway standards.
“Are the old guidelines to be used at all?” asked the commission’s vice chairwoman, Judy Meer. The answer from Assistant City Attorney Bob Hulsey was that where the overlay is in effect, it supersedes all other regulations.
Some commission members said they felt the city was losing its focus on preservation of its historic past.
“I don’t think we have changed our philosophy, but we are changing a lot of the rules,” said Mayor Jere Wood, referencing the new Unified Development Code Roswell is in the process of creating.
Commission member Richard Halberg said under Groveway, “there is very little discussion about building materials.” For example, he said, HPC would have liked to ask for windows in City Park buildings that are more historically accurate, but the walls as designed aren’t thick enough to accommodate them.
Halberg said the HPC “was not really consulted on Groveway.”
Before the code is solidified, the commission needs “the big picture” from council, “what you want the historic district to look like,” he said.
The code is “going to bring some things to us with a lot of details missing,” Halberg said.
The commission is urged to share with council and staff the areas in the new code in which members would like to see more specifics, Wood said.
“This is not a closed book. We’re now at the point where we are working out details and we need your input,” he told the commission.
As far as Groveway and its standards, “when you see something that’s not working, that needs to be changed, it’s important you reach consensus” and bring it to staff’s attention, Wood said, so it can be passed on to council.