Originally created 08/27/99

Historic district debates ordinance



Members of the Bethlehem historic district agreed Thursday that what's good for the Summerville historic district may not be good for them.

More than 75 residents living in the first historic district created under Augusta's 1992 historic preservation ordinance met at Mount Calvary Baptist Church to discuss the fate of their neighborhood's historic ordinance. The district is bounded by Wrightsboro Road on the north, Poplar and Clay streets on the west, the CSX Railroad line on the south and Old Savannah Road on the east.

The validity of the ordinances came into question in May when Augusta builder James Garren filed a lawsuit against the Augusta Historic Preservation Committee after he was cited in Richmond County Magistrate Court for paving a driveway too wide in the Summerville area.

According to city attorney Jim Wall, after Mr. Garren challenged the Summerville ordinance, the city looked at the other historic district ordinances and determined city council did not follow proper procedure when adopting them.

Members of the city's subcommittee on historic preservation asked residents living in the Bethlehem historic district if they thought the ordinance should remain the same, be modified or abolished.

"If we're going to make it a historic district, let's designate some buildings to be historic and get the rest of the junk out of here," Evan Harris said.

And most residents agreed. They want the old, dilapidated houses in the area demolished. The cost to renovate them would be more than they're worth.

"We need to make this part of the city look like it's kin to the rest of Augusta," said Willie E. Cooper Sr.

Residents said keeping the abandoned houses in the area is fueling crime.

"Nobody lives in those houses but rats and drug addicts," said the Rev. Thomas Walker. "Do we want to preserve that?"

"Modifications need to be made to the ordinance," said Dianne Kimbel. "If we lose the ordinance, we're going to lose our community."

Katie Throne can be reached at (706) 823-3332 or katie.throne@augustachronicle.com.