CITY EVENTS COMMITTEE DECISION - With calendar dates now tied to city funding, a committee of non-elected decision makers has awarded Art Fest 2010 to a for-profit corporation over the charitable clubs that have successfully produced the event for 45 years
LOCATION FOR NORCROSS HISTORY CENTER - After two years of building the business side of the History Center museum, the Norcross History Center is now incorporated as a nonprofit 501c3, IRS approved, and ready to receive money donations and property.
The NHC began as a grassroots effort of various community groups. The people most passionate about preserving and passing on Norcross history are those who were born in the area or have lived in Norcross for many years; many are from founding families. Even those "Norcross-onians" who live elsewhere wish to always "come home and
visit" a Norcross they can recognize.
HOW IS OUR HISTORY TREATED IN THE POLITICAL ARENA?
“Respecting the Past, Embracing the Future” is a popular motto of many Norcross citizens. We are called Historic Norcross, but let’s look at what has happened over the past 18 months. How is history honored or dishonored in Norcross politics? Is the historic district community more at risk today? First, there was a Historic Preservation ordinance start-up, then a rescinding of the enabling ordinance and firing of the commission; then a new Demolition Delay Ordinance that takes away process, public hearing, and council vote, and now, this apparent new game to delay and demoralize the museum.
Editor’s Note: Now that real estate is in the tank along with the economy, there is a movement to revisit the safeguards we once had in place. Hindsight is always best. We welcome renewed interest in history and preservation, and hope the research on this site will help citizens reflect, in this time of underwater mortgages, that property values in locally protected historic districts are holding up quite well because of stabilized, guaranteed quality of life. We have taken time to review and present what works successfully in other communities. The same process is available to Norcross, but time is running out.
After demolishing the enabling ordinance for Historic Preservation in Norcross on January 7th 2008, many more ideas have surfaced about demolitions. Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Allen is proposing local legal changes to be considered as soon as the March 3rd 2008 City Council Meeting. The opinions of Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Allen and Developer Robert Forro discuss ideas and preferences that are not within State of Georgia Preservation Law and guidelines.
Delayed Demolitions is a misleading term. “Demolitions du Jour” is more appropriate. Councilman Jeff Allen is proposing a more accelerated demolition plan, first presented at the February 11, 2008 Policy Work Session. (See Minutes on City Website). Allen’s plan is on a fast-track for a Council vote March 3, 2008 if he can garner two other votes in support. This proposal does not allow for a two-hearing process; it is simply a 90-day permitting process. No rules, no reviews, no holds barred, an owner can demolish any structure and flip the property the same day, if desired. The burden is placed on other homeowners to try and stop the accelerating train, but again, without a stated process or intervention by elected officials, and no appeals process.
Citizens elected council representatives whom they rely upon to use good judgment and make defensible decisions in the public interest. All of us are interested in sustainable growth and stability for our small city. We have learned it is stability that maintains property value and quality of life. In our opinion, Norcross cannot afford another disastrous density mistake or denial of process. Other cities that have a successful preservation ordinance and demolition process to protect a local historic district send out letters by mail to neighbors who would be affected, affording opportunity for all to attend the hearing and have a say. There is an appeal to the Mayor and Council.
- The Editors
Demolition without Process
Have you missed the historic Log Cabin at the top of the hill in downtown Norcross?
Have you missed the historic 1934 Log Cabin at the top of the hill, at Lillian Webb Baseball Field, in downtown Norcross? Many Norcross citizens, too, are wondering what happened?
The demolition order, issued by the City Manager Summer 2007, was based on decisions by the Norcross City Council at its January 2007 retreat in Greenville, South Carolina. The order was executed without holding a public hearing, without any measures to salvage the old window glass, wood and fieldstones, nor allow public to purchase items. Many memories lost.
Before a structure is demolished, the development plan for the next building is to be approved before the demolition, per the City's Architecture Design Guidelines.
Not having a pre-approved plan means very little control over the next building or development.
The Architecture Review Board does not have the legal strength to enforce rules.
If the structure is to be demolished, it is very easy to demolish the trees the same day, with or without a tree permit. Game appears to be "catch me if you can."
City Council is not following the stated TWO-hearing process that is documented in the City's Architecture Design Guidelines.
City Council is not allowing for the advantages of input from a trained preservation commission, and for the advantage of holding more public hearings that notify adjacent property owners of pending change by posted letters and posted signs.
35 Williams Street-Tabled February 4 by Council until April meeting
129 N. Cemetery Street-Victorian c. 1895. Approved by City Council 2007.
75 College Street-Craftsman c. 1890. Approved by City Council 2007.
Wingo Street-Two railroad era cottages. Approved by City Council 2006 to demolish after city City rezoned itself-First residential rezoning to high density in the city was approved a 3-2 Council Vote.
After rezoning, property transferred to DDA, which flipped same day to George Banks d/b/d Paladin Properties, (aka Atlanta Cottages, Wingo Street Cottages, Clear Creek Cottages).
The Little Log Cabin c. 1934-Approved by City Manager 2007 (no Public hearing).
219 Academy Street: Automatically approved without council vote March, 2007 because application was filed before discovery of City Code/ordinance problem. Prior City code did not require a council vote on any demolition. Another example of process problems.
Status: Vacant lot offered for sale as commercial; trees will likely be lost.
Lawrenceville Street next to 219 Academy-Approved 2006-vacant lot offered for sale; trees will likely be lost. (Automatically approved as 219 Academy above before city code was amended to require the council to vote on a demolition.)
35 Williams Street
Council Tables Demolition Until April; Fate of Historic 1897 Cottage Uncertain
Had the preservation ordinance been in effect, a preservation commission would conduct demolition hearings in the designated historic district. In December the council bowed to special interests and failed to set a boundary for a local preservation district. In January, the council rescinded the preservation ordinance, achieving state-wide notoriety by becoming the only city in Georgia, perhaps in the nation, to take such action twice. The first time was in the 1980s at the beginning of rapid growth. Guyton and Wrens have rescinded an ordinance once each.
Georgia has 130 cities with preservation ordinances, according to sources at UGA's College of Preservation and Environmental Design. These ordinances provide a road map for a protection process in designated local historic districts. More than 70 of these cities meet standards for a Certified Local Government (CLG), entitling them to a matching grant program, according to Jennifer Martin Lewis, Georgia Certified Local Government Coordinator.
Following close on the heels of council's rejection of the two ordinances came two more applications in February to alter the historic district: a proposed demolition of the 1897 Cook's Cabin at 35 Williams Street and an application for a used car lot on the Lawrenceville Street gateway. We had the tools in place to say no defensively to unwanted intrusions that threaten the historic district's character. We have to hope citizens can convince the council to reconsider its position."
Dollar Impact of Designating a Local Historic District
Taking care of what we have makes economic sense when we consider the city's 2030 POND redevelopment plan which includes 10 re-development districts out of an overall total of 12 areas (Only two districts remain intact, the downtown main street and a neighborhood district.)
What is the dollar impact of preserving at least our one unique, core historic district and placing its oversight under the Historic Preservation Commission's purview, a council-appointed, specially trained local citizen board? Impressive data is available to us for designating a local historic district, and 104 Georgia cities have followed this path to success. Studies exist now in nearly every state.
Norcross City Council Approves Annexations at Weekend Retreat,
Gwinnett Daily Post reports in Front Page Story
Historically, Norcross citizens do not favor annexations, nor do they favor candidates who openly discuss it. Obviously, the idea is still under discussion since January 15, 2007 Retreat in Greenville, SC, where the council met behind closed doors. Citizens do indeed know the crime statistics in the proposed annexation area, but many citizens feel present capacity of the city police force cannot handle the degree of crime. Obviously, Norcross citizens would like the crime problem addressed, but where is the Plan, what is the price tag, who going to perform the Plan and how, and who is going to pay? Is it to be in conjunction with the county, or will the city have go it alone? Will it be a "done deal" before Norcross citizens get these answers? The article alludes to a possible Peachtree Corners annexation. Usually Norcross citizens get to view voting in an announced public meeting at city hall.
This news may come as a surprise to many Readers, as the new Mayor's letter to citizens contained in a recent city utility bill does not mention it.
The City has retained a consulting company, POND, to help draft a comprehensive plan for the next 22 years. This plan involves ideas for future redevelopment areas within the city limits and around the city.
The comprehensive plan is considered completed, and it will move for outside review by the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) via the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) in December 2007.
Public meetings have been held October 2007, but lightly attended by citizens. Not all citizens know the results and the need for citizen input on POND survey. See Links below to ISSUES SURVEY and MAP of 12 PROPOSED NORCROSS DISTRICTS.
A comprehensive plan is a planning tool that many cities use to decide on land use, desired growth and what types of business developments are desired. It is up to each city to decide its rate of growth, or if it wishes to maintain conservatively.
The comprehensive plan will evolve into a new land use plan and new zoning ordinances. If new types of business developments are desired, creating new zoning ordinances can attract them. The City has zoning authority where overlay districts do not. In other words, the County Community Improvement District (CID) cannot perform zoning authority as effectively as the City of Norcross.
Editorial note: It is the opinion of the SHN editorial staff that the October 2007 Pond plan is very aggressive for redevelopment in our very small city. We acknowledge that this plan could be appropriate for a city the size of Marietta.
The people of Norcross want to preserve our historic district because it is one of the few remaining examples of a 19th century rail road town. We want to show our history and preserve the feel and quality of life so that future generations can experience and enjoy the Norcross of today that everyone knows and loves.
With progressive growth on-going, remaining historic properties are not protected now. New growth will take us over. Norcross will not be the Norcross neighborhood as we know it anymore, but another Atlanta high-density in-fill haven.
SEE STATUS of 20 Historic Properties Threatened Since 2005
Facing The Challenge
An outside consulting group, Terracon, compiled the Historic Resources Survey. Until now, we were not sure what we had. The parcel-by-parcel survey found some 260 properties 50 years old or older, meeting criteria for historic status. Will City act in time? Consider that your historic house, probably upscale, well-maintained and high-value, is really in a subdivision with no real legal protection and no covenants.
Variety of Planning Tools Help Manage Burgeoning Growth
The genie is out of the bottle.
Norcross, like other savvy communities, has available a variety of planning tools to ensure its survival and preserve timeless history.
Many planning activities - employing density in the right areas, establishing Architectural Review processes, creating and training citizen boards to perform design reviews, performing a Historical Resources Survey, designating protected districts, and addressing transition areas that lead into the historic district are important to maintaining the city's character so vital to sustained long-term growth.
What is Design Concept Development (DCD) / Mixed Use?
As set-backs creep closer to streets around the business district, residents are becoming increasingly aware of a new rezoning tool called Design Concept Development (DCD) that embraces zero lot lines. As growth progresses employing the DCD/Mixed Use concept with condominiums above businesses, so does concern that we are not prepared for it. The city has a long history of starting concepts and failing to follow through with refinements. Will city planners become involved and write a better Mixed Use ordinance or will the city allow restrictions, if any, to be left to chance, developers' attorneys or condo associations yet unformed?
How Much Density Can Our Historic Infrastructure Sustain?
With numbers of projected Mixed Use projects taking care of downtown retail needs, and developers eyeing in-fill potential within residential areas, just how much growth can our historic infrastructure sustain? We are not opposed to Mixed Use if contained in commercial areas and supported by Impact Studies and adequate planning.
What Are Roles of HPC and ARB Appointed Citizens Boards?
To live in Norcross requires a heightened awareness of what is at risk. Our task today is how to maintain for future generations that unique sense of Place that belongs to Norcross and no other place, especially when developers see our hometown as "beachfront property" and covet every foot of space, even to zero lot lines.
A number of citizens groups are involved to preserve and celebrate the town's historic resources. The newly formed Norcross History Center, Inc. has begun an oral history project for its planned museum, aided by $3,200 seed money from the City Council.
Downtown Development Authority Already Implementing Next Generation of Initiatives
Seeking over-arching control of future growth, the DDA is involved in a plethora of multi-lateral land deals, facilitated with low interest loans through The Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA). These include purchasing property on Bostic Street, and the c.1870 Folk-style cottage on College Street; behind Skin Alley, and granting an option to developer Robert Forro for the Old Fire Station property when it becomes available. The Town Center Park planned around the recently- acquired baseball field is also underway. Coming soon is the POND 2030 Comprehensive Plan and a large marketing initiative. A Town Hall meeting is planned September 12. A referendum for creating a Tax Allocation District (TAD) in the city.has already been approved by the State legislature. A Town Hall meeting is planned September 26. Citizens get to vote on the TAD November 6.
City Council Needs to Reinstate Work Session to Week Prior to Regular Council Meeting
The City Council is chartered to set policy with the advice and consent of the governed. We are concerned about the city council's decision to move the Regular Council Work Session to the same night and only one hour before a Regular Council Meeting where votes are taken. The decision was made by consensus at the January 2007 Retreat in Greenville, SC.
Old Methodist Church Property Purchase Proves Wise Decision
A brilliant move by the city council last summer was the purchase of the 1871 Old Methodist Church and its 1875 Queen Anne-style Rectory. The city's decision allowed not only immediate availability to residents of a vibrant Community and Cultural Arts Center, but also ensured preserving an important period landmark.
The charming little church with its gothic spires looking down on the city is not only an historic focal point, but already a boon to merchants, residents and visitors alike. Besides many popular activities scheduled daily in the Community Center, the Lionheart's Little Theatre productions play to packed houses.
Norcross History Center Presents Plan to Locate in Historic Church Rectory
The Norcross History Center, Inc. Board has presented a comprehensive plan to the city for use of the historic Old Methodist Church Rectory for its planned Museum. The group presented a 3-year cost analysis and summary of its needs to City Manager Warren Hutmacher in July. A decision is pending.
The proposed museum honoring the town's heritage would complete a triad of cultural attractions in the city that includes the Community Center and Kudzu Arts Zone. Previously, the city council voted to lease for $1 dollar a year the Old Telephone Exchange building on Carlyle Street to The Kudzu Arts Zone, a group recently relocating to Norcross from Berkley Lake, and a house to the Latin American Association.
Majority of Large Trees on Cemetery Street Lost if DOT Plans Not Modified
Using funds obtained from the Atlanta Regional Commission for the Livable Cities Initiative (LCI) and from the Transportation Enhancement (TE) grant, the City of Norcross plans to widen the Cemetery Street gateway by 15 feet on either side. Given the type of buildings planned for the new Cemetery Street redevelopment (mixed-use condominiums), most all interior trees, sidewalk trees and existing vegetation will be lost due to excavation. The city plans to compensate a number of property owners for frontage taken from both sides of the street.
Studies Show Historic Preservation Efforts Contribute Financially to Communities
In Georgia and other states, studies show that historic preservation contributes financially to a community. Preservation activities also serve to maintain and reinforce the economic position of the community.
All men are mortal
Kind words will never perish
Nor will a noble name
~ Viking saying
Norcross residents found more than a friend when Derek Norcross of Hastings, England, discovered the city named for his famous forebear, Jonathan Norcross, first mayor of Atlanta. The city found a legacy, connecting with living family in England of its famous namesake. Both Derek and Jonathan traced family roots to Norcross Manor in the north of England. The name Norcross is Viking in origin meaning "Men of the North Cross."