How is Norcross History Honored in the Political Arena?
We are called historic Norcross. “Respecting the Past; embracing the Future” is a popular motto with many Norcross citizens, but the historic community is more at risk today than it was 18 month’s ago. Why? First, there was a historic ordinance start-up, then a firing of the commission; then a Demolition Delay ordinance that takes away the 2-hearing process and council vote, and now, this apparent new game to delay and demoralize the museum.
Three Defining Examples of City Council Actions 2006-2008:
Historic Preservation Commission
Prepare Enabling ordinance, public input, revisions over 10 months
Enact Enabling ordinance August, 2006
Spend $25 thousand hiring Terracon consultants to do professional study finding 266 qualified properties
Send the Commission to training: 176 training hours, 398 total hours travel time included
Hold 2 public hearings
Then, ignore Staff recommendation, professional Terracon recommendation, and professional trained commission’s recommendation, dismantle in 30 seconds without discussion.
Do not allow for mediation, tabling for study, or consider alternative options.
Remedy we suggest: Revise and bring back the Local Preservation Enabling Ordinance. Reconstitute the already- trained -at -city -expense former Historic Preservation Commission; educate; hold hearing, designate oversight of the 3 Cemeteries as a district and a small downtown core; educate more property owners to benefits of protection.
The two hearings in 2007 obviously were not representative. More education is needed. The hearing process was tainted due to a potential conflict of interest when one councilmember was reportedly campaigning against the ordinance during the first hearing before the commission, even though the full council was yet to consider the matter.
In January, 2008, Norcross became one of only two cities in Georgia, and possibly the nation, to twice rescind a local preservation ordinance. The first time was in 1989, when the preservation mind-set was newly developing. Citizens were given misleading, obfuscating, potentially destructive information by another former councilman who later became city manager for a short time. The Minutes of that meeting reflect that he told the citizens they would “have to go to Washington” if they wanted to make changes to their property!!
More than 100 successful cities in Georgia now have successful local preservation ordinances.
Destroyed the open 2-hearing process which required a council public vote and instituted a new ordinance to allow for no process at all, just a waiting period and knock it down; out of public view and without public input.
Remedy we suggest: Bring back the Demolition ordinance we once had that includes a 2-hearing process as stated in LCI and ARB Guidelines. Presently, the ARB hears all applications for new construction and changes to existing construction.
Tour of Demolitions??
A real Tour of Demolitions is not one we would welcome, but this may soon be all that remains if the present hum-drum, do-nothing trend continues. A demolition of historic property is extreme, and should be the last resort, not the only option.
Two years ago, Demolition by Demand for Cemetery St and College St. properties sent some very troubling signals from the city council that this is a "yes/no" vote without taking time to adequately look for alternatives. It was hard on the developer as well. It was known these two prime 1890’s Victorian and Craftsman properties could be lost, but the developer was subjected to emotional public outcry and little time to mediate an acceptable outcome. A developer relies on goodwill within the community where he is building. The LCI and the ARB Guidelines state we should consider alternatives, and ask for property sale/relocation. Previously, the ordinance was found not to require a vote at all by council after a hearing. This disconnect was corrected to require a council vote.
After citizens complained about misleading signs on the property and a vote the day after spring break, on Wednesday before Easter weekend, Council called on the newly formed Historic Preservation Commission to research over the weekend and bring them a plan Monday after Easter. The request for a plan was too late, knowingly too late.
Opinions on new Demolition Delay ordinance (on this site)
The first hearing should be before the Architect Review Board (or a properly constituted Preservation Commission if the property is in a locally designated historic district) The hearing would take place before the ARB for property outside a defined historic district. The ARB’s focus is not the same as an HPC’s focus. Training is not required for the ARB as required by state law and defined process for an HPC. Appeals would be before the city council.
The Museum Background. The Board of Directors for the Norcross History Center have been working for about two years on the start- up of The Norcross History Center.
Held discussions in 7 major meetings with Council, numerous small meetings and volumes of emails over 2 years with museum group
Council gave unanimous “Resolution of Support” 5-0 in public vote and urged group to continue the project
City gave some start-up funding to museum
Council ignored Staff recommendation for use of two historic houses
Remedy we suggest: The Norcross History Center Museum is looking for something on the level that Duluth is doing in the Strickland House, a 100-year old gem that lends itself to period furnishings as a destination setting for events taking place in the museum. We think the Rectory is the best place for many reasons. Initially, the Rectory was touted as the future museum’s location when the property was purchased.