Preserving city history on agenda

The North Augusta Planning Commission will meet tonight to discuss whether the city should have an ordinance in place to preserve historic properties and neighborhoods.

 

With the pending sale of North Augusta's Rosemary and Lookaway halls, the commission decided to look into what other South Carolina cities have done to preserve historic properties and districts.

During the June planning commission meeting, Skip Grkovic, the economic and community development director, said that there's nothing to prohibit a new owner from razing the properties or any others locals deem significant.

Rosemary and Lookaway halls and the Sesame Lodge are on the National Register of Historic Places.

The distinction offers tax credits for owners, but it doesn't protect the structures.

"A possible buyer could knock down the building," Mr. Grkovic said. "Many of us couldn't conceive that that could happen, but it has in the past."

Commission members said they want to look into not only protecting Rosemary and Lookaway halls but also other properties and neighborhoods, including East Avenue, which features many Craftsman-style homes.

Lynn Thompson owns Sesame Lodge on West Avenue, which is more than 100 years old. She knows what it's like to put in years of work to preserve the integrity of a property.

"It takes a lot of love and a lot of blood, sweat and tears for restoration and beautification," she said. "I've always been for historic preservation. I think there need to be guidelines of what you can do with historic properties."

Mrs. Thompson said she would like to see all of the original city limits of North Augusta included if an ordinance is established.

Representatives of the South Carolina State Historic Preservation Office will be on hand tonight to answer questions about financial incentives and how other cities have drawn up ordinances. South Carolina has 28 certified historic communities, including parts of Aiken.

"It can be so positive for a community if they understand it," said Jennifer Satterthwaite, the state preservation outreach and local government coordinator.

Home values also have the potential to increase once an area receives a historic distinction, said Dan Elswick, the state preservation senior historic architecture consultant.

"It's important for owners to not assume it will keep them from doing what they want to do," he said.

Ms. Satterthwaite said if the commission decides to pursue an ordinance the process will take eight months to a year.

The first step would include surveying the city to see what properties or neighborhoods qualify for distinctions. Homes must be at least 50 years old to qualify under state guidelines.

Reach Julia Sellers at (706) 823-3424 or julia.sellers@augustachronicle.com

IF YOU GO

WHAT: North Augusta Planning Commission meeting to discuss historic property preservation with the South Carolina State Historic Preservation Office

WHERE: Municipal building, 100 Georgia Ave.

WHEN: 7 tonight