Originally created 08/07/02

Proposal has new historic status



Ed Evans, the planning director for Aiken, has proposed a new designation for historical properties, a change prompted by recent opposition from the owner of a prominent horse track.

In May, against McGhees' Mile Track owner Bruce McGhee's wishes, the Historic Preservation Commission recommended making the track a historical landmark.

Mr. McGhee vehemently opposes the designation, which goes before the city's planning commission next Tuesday, because he says it will limit the use of his property.

The preservation commission reviews and approves changes to the exterior of homes and other sites designated historical. It does not review internal alterations.

Landmark status is the city's most restrictive and is reserved for properties not in Aiken's three historic districts. Mr. Evans proposal, reviewed Tuesday by the preservation commission, calls for creating a second, less restrictive designation for historical properties outside the districts.

"If the proposed ordinance is passed it will prevent this from happening again," Mr. Evans said.

The proposal won't be complete before the city council decides whether the McGhees' Mile Track should be designated a landmark. However, Mr. Evans said exceptions could be made if the property is designated a landmark.

Members of the preservation commission voiced support for the new designation.

The problem with the McGhees' Mile Track, Mr. Evans wrote in his proposal, is that the track itself is considered historical but not all buildings surrounding it are.

At its May meeting the preservation commission recommended landmark status for the track itself. But it recommended that changes made to surrounding properties be reviewed case by case, with fewer historical properties held to more lenient standards.

Mr. Evans proposal calls for similar measures. The proposal recommends a "historic site" designation that would allow the preservation commission to vary how strict a non-district property would be reviewed, rather than having a property locked into landmark status.

Reach Josh Gelinas at (803)279-6895 or josh.gelinas@augustachronicle.com.