Members of the Historic Preservation Commission said they took interest in the homes around Church and Cherokee streets after homeowners in the area protested WellStar Health System’s plan to build a 20-foot sky bridge across Church Street, which will connect Kennestone Hospital’s existing surgery department to a new emergency room.
City Council voted 7-0 at its May 14 meeting to allow WellStar to build the bridge.
“There seemed to be a lot of concern about the bridge and how it would affect the historic district,” said Alan Levine, a member of the Historic Preservation Commission’s board.
“People kept referring to the area (around the WellStar bridge) as the historic district, and it made me think there was a very favorable impression of the idea of being in a historic district,” said Becky Paden, vice-chair of the commission’s board.
Now, the commission has decided to consider a 32-acre area of homes just southeast of the approved WellStar bridge for a new historic district. Levine said he thinks preserving the history is at the forefront of residents’ minds after the controversy surrounding the bridge, so it’s a good time to propose the district.
The area the commission is considering for the district will be carved out of the 32 acres after the commission hears from residents and sees who would be in favor of it. The study area covers properties on Moon Street, Holland Street, Maple Avenue and Polk Street.
The area sits adjacent to the existing Kennesaw Avenue Historic District, which covers eight acres and was created by the board last year.
The board talked to residents of the study area at a meeting in October, and Levine said the reaction to the new district was mixed. Most people wanted more information about what a historic district is and what guidelines residents would have to follow.
“We’ve got draft guidelines, and that’s what people wanted to see,” said David Freedman, board chairman.
Paden said the main responsibility of being a part of a historic district is keeping up the exterior of one’s home and following the guidelines, which detail how a home of a certain period should look.
If a resident wanted to make a change to the outside of a home, it would need to be approved by the Historic Preservation Commission and by the City Council. When making changes, residents have to follow guidelines to stay in line with the historic style of the neighborhood.
“The reason exterior changes have to be approved is really to help the whole neighborhood, because someone could make some horrible change that isn’t appropriate for the period,” Paden said.
Levine said even though going through the approval process can be daunting, it ensures the homes are kept intact as a part of the city’s history.
“We all share in the pride of those homes,” Levine said.
In order to create the district, Freedman said, 60 percent of the homeowners inside the proposed district’s boundaries must vote in favor of its creation.
Freedman said this can be hard to achieve because if a homeowner inside the district chooses not to vote, it counts as a vote against the district.
“You have to draw the boundaries where you’re going to get enough votes — otherwise you’re wasting everyone’s time,” Freedman said.
The commission tried to create a historic district in the area between Moon Street and Holland Street in 2009, but it failed because not enough people responded with a yes or no vote. Of the 50 property owners in the 2009 vote, 24 of them did not respond.
“The odds were stacked against us,” Freedman said.
The commission will continue to conduct meetings with residents in the coming months to work toward creating the district, Freedman said.