Commission moves to enlarge downtown historic district

Gary B. Gray • Mar 8, 2013 at 9:10 PM

The City Commission on Thursday unanimously passed the first reading of an ordinance to triple the size of its downtown Historic Zoning/Conservation Overlay District.

The request, which came from the Historic Zoning Committee, would expand the boundary from State of Franklin Road at Buffalo Street to an area near the Interstate 26 on-ramp. It also extends to East Market Street and turns west to meet with Buffalo. To the west of this area, land bounded generally from Buffalo to North Commerce Street beginning at West Market Street would be included, as would the John Sevier Hotel.

Currently, the Historic District includes only the former CC&O Railroad Depot (Johnson’s Depot), where Tupleo Honey Cafe will make its home, and an area bounded roughly from West State of Franklin Road to East Market Street and from Buffalo to South Roan streets.

The original request would have added land bounded generally by West Market Street to a northern boundary near West King Street and from Buffalo to Montgomery streets. However, Senior Planner Angie Charles told commissioners that this area was removed “after significant opposition.”

“What did they object to?” asked Commissioner Clayton Stout.

“There were objections to the additional layer of regulations,” Charles answered.

Under the new designation, any extensive exterior alterations, construction or demolition would have to go before the Historic Zoning Commission. Property owners will not be required to make any changes. But should they do so, there are standards that would have to be met. There’s also incentives.

Benefits include federal tax credits for improvement projects, increased property values, protection on investment and overall economic benefits.

The City Commission adopted the HZCO in 1999 with the intent of preserving the historical integrity and value of the properties. Within the HZCO, there are individual districts grouped together based on location. This expansion deals specifically with the Downtown Historic District, created in 2001.

Each designated district has a set of guidelines used to assist those wanting to make improvements, and property owners may need to make sure they are replacing smaller items, such as windows or doors, with similar types or styles.

Commissioners also agreed to send a letter to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and the National Park Service petitioning them to allow the city to use part of Keefauver farm as replacement land for the 14.5-acre Optimist Park.

Optimist Park has been in disrepair for years. Since federal funds were used to help build the park, land of equal or greater value must be identified for recreational use before the park can be decommissioned.

The city purchased the 55-acre Keefauver farm three years ago as a future park site.

The request will first go to TDEC, but the park service makes the final decision.

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