Avondale Estates City Commission approves historic preservation guidelines
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By Zoe Seiler, contributor
Avondale Estates, GA– The Avondale Estates City Commission approved the city’s new historic preservation guidelines on Monday, Aug. 24, as well as an intergovernmental agreement with the Downtown Development Authority.
The city had been working with the consulting firm Lord Aeck Sargent for several months to rewrite the historic preservation guidelines to make them more clear and consistent.
Avondale Estates was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986 “due to the character of the City’s architecture and landscape, and because it’s the only documented example in the southeastern United States of an early 20th century planned town,” the city’s website says.
The city was founded in 1924 as “the dream of founder George Willis, a patent medicine tycoon whose Tudor-revival concept was meant to mimic Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare,” Decaturish previously reported.
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The overall goal of updating the guidelines was to make them more clear and objective in order to provide a clear, concise framework for homeowners, City Manager Patrick Bryant said at the Aug. 19 work session.
“Big picture, we’re looking at protecting the front facades of historic buildings and front yards which really set the stage and the character for Avondale,” Assistant City Manager Shannon Powell said at the Aug. 19 work session.
The City Commission approved the guidelines with a 4-1 vote. The guidelines will be launched following a reevaluation of tier one and tier two properties, Mayor Jonathan Elmore said.
“We’re going to go through a process to look at what properties are in and out or what the classification is and we don’t want to launch the guidelines until we have that finalized,” Elmore said.
Commissioner Lionel Laratte opposed the new guidelines. He added that city staff and the consulting firm did a good job and did what they were asked to do.
“However, I think we as a board missed the mark on providing a direction that would lead us down an important path for the city,” Laratte said. “I’m hoping we’ll be able to remedy that in the near future. I think this is a step in the right direction but I don’t think we’re there yet.”
The previous guidelines had a tier system for categorizing homes and specifying the changes homeowners could make to their properties. The biggest revision in the new guidelines is combining the tier one and tier two designations, Decaturish previously reported.
There will now be two categories instead of three as the tier one and tier two categories were almost identical, Powell said at the Aug. 19 work session.
“If you look at those comparison charts, you’ll see that we found that some of the expectations in the tier one were not necessary so we downgraded some of those. Then we added a restriction around dormers for tier two when we combined the two categories,” Powell said.
For tier three, the section that would have required a newly constructed house to look like an old one was removed, Powell said.
The city also received many comments about windows and a component was added so that residents can replace their windows.
“You can either repair, which is preferred in the historical language, but there is a provision on how to do that,” Powell said.
The commissioners said they were happy with the new guidelines but added some things to think about in the future.
Mayor Pro Tem Brian Fisher said the new guidelines are a good first step and accomplished the city’s current goal of making the guidelines easier to understand. However, he added that the city should think about what it wants to get out of the historic district in the future.
“I feel like we made it easier for our residents to be able to do what I would consider general maintenance items to their homes in a quick and efficient manner,” Fisher said.
Commissioner Lisa Shortell also said the overall changes are a positive step and she was happy to see that the historic preservation process is now easier for residents, as well as see the restrictions on mass and scale.
“But I do think in the future that Avondale, at some point, should take a good look at their ordinance and possibly review and update their ordinance in particular around intent and purpose,” Shortell said.
In other news, the City Commission approved a new schedule to the city’s intergovernmental agreement with the Downtown Development Authority to allow for shared staffing resources. The framework was unanimously approved by the DDA at its Aug. 11 meeting.
“We think we have developed a framework that will benefit the organization as a whole, the city as a whole. We share very similar goals. I think it only makes sense for the two bodies to liaise in a more cooperative spirit,” Bryant said.
The final language for the new schedule hasn’t been determined yet but both organizations approved the framework. The attorneys for the city and the DDA are working to finalize the document. The DDA still has to vote on the final draft of the agreement.
“I do believe that this is a really important foundational piece, getting this staffing right, to help our city as an organization move forward. I’m super happy to see that it’s happened because I think it’s going to allow us to be able to do the things that we need to do going into the future,” Shortell, who is also a member of the DDA, said.
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At the Aug. 19 work session, Bryant explained that Powell will become a shared employee with the city and the DDA. A new position will be mostly funded by the DDA to have someone focus on the city’s main street, promotions and events.
The DDA will additionally help fund some existing city positions that perform work for the organization such as those in the finance department and the communications manager, Bryant said.
The city also plans to work with a contractor, Carolyn Rader, as a trial run to figure out the city and DDA’s needs for project management so that staff could create a job description if that role is made permanent, Bryant said at the work session.
“The savings that will be incurred by the city will be proposed to be used for the services of a project manager to assist Assistant City Manager/Executive Director of the DDA Powell with executing all of the capital projects that are on our plate,” Bryant said at the work session.
Rader and Powell previously worked together for the city of Atlanta. Rader has a landscape architecture background and also has experience with environmental and sustainability projects, Powell said.
Rader will work with the city from Sept. 1 to Nov. 30 for 80 hours per month and will be paid $60 per hour. The contract could be extended for additional time.
She will assist with program and project management services for stormwater, planning, transportation or economic development projects under the direction of Powell, according to the contract.
“In summary, I really thought she would bring and be a compliment to some of the skills I don’t have and really help particularly on that landscape and environmental front,” Powell said.
The City Commission will meet next on Monday, Aug. 31, at 5:30 p.m. through Zoom to discuss annexing Berkeley Village.
There are 60 households in Berkeley Village and residents there have applied for annexation into the city limits.
Berkeley Village is located on Covington Highway between Avondale Estates First Baptist Church and Avondale Pattillo Methodist Church. The neighborhood previously met with the city to discuss annexation in 2017 but this is the first application residents have submitted.
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