City holds discussion of downtown historic district ordinance June 26

Published 10:07 am Tuesday, June 27, 2023

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A discussion was held on the downtown Atmore historic district ordinance during a regular city council meeting on June 26.

In 2019, the city council voted to establish a Historic Preservation Commission (HPC). The commission is appointed by the city council, and a statute by state law gives the commission certain duties and powers.

“The idea is to find an area of historical significance by its architecture,” City Attorney Larry Wettermark said during the discussion. “This is certified through the United States under federal regulation through the National Parks Service to define the characteristics. That’s been done by this committee.”

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Once this was complete, any property owner or resident in the district was notified by mail of the committee’s next step.

Wettermark said at present, lines are being drawn to establish the historic district downtown.

According to the proposed drawings, the historic district runs from the railroad north to Jackson Street, and from Ridgeley Street south to Horner Street.

Wettermark said the city has engaged with Landmarks Foundation of Montgomery for help in the map drawing. Additionally, Landmarks Foundation will help with community feedback and any guidelines that are set for the HPC.

Wettermark spoke about certificate of appropriateness and proposed changes in the ordinance to include a moratorium.

District 4 Councilmember Shawn Lassiter asked what kind of staffing will be needed for the HPC.

Landmarks Foundation Representative Taylor Stewart said staffing is based on the needs of the community.

“Many options are available; it just depends on the level of work and on your needs when you have the HPC up and running,” Stewart said.

District 5 Councilmember Chris Harrison asked if there is any insurance needed for the HPC.

Wettermark advised that a general liability policy is needed to cover things for official duties.

District 1 Councilmember Webb Nall asked if the HPC is open to the Alabama Open Meetings Act.

Wettermark said yes that the HPC is open to this rule.

Members of the public were also in council chambers asking questions regarding the HPC and the ordinance.

One citizen asked what if a person wishes to not be a part of the historic district.

“If the ordinance is approved, they’re in,” Wettermark said. “Once the city council adopts the map proposed every property is in.”

However, officials at the meeting said those residents can register their disapproval if they choose.

Other topics discussed during the meeting included adding additional property to the district map, architectural specifics on the exterior of buildings and tax credits, to name a few.

In other business, the city:

  • held a first reading for the Atmore Municipal Airport Minimum Standards. Wettermark said the airport does not have written minimum standards, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does not require it. But, the airport can receive grant money if it has minimum standards, he added. The minimum standards would be established for the future, he said;
  • turned down a request to have multiple Atmore Radio-Controlled events as the city would have to change an ordinance, discounting the license fee. This action was tabled during a previous meeting; and,
  • approved Amendment No. 1 of an airport grant for $260,994.93 for a hangar. The bid that came in came in too cheap, Mayor Jim Staff said, adding that the FAA advised that the city needed to adopt the recommended amendment.