Originally created 11/21/02

Disputes on old homes come before commission



A dispute over an Augusta homeowner's changes to a house in the Summerville district has city officials considering an increase in the fine for permit violations in historic areas.

In a meeting today, Augusta's Historic Preservation Commission will address that issue and rule on a downtown businessman's request to tear down two historic, Victorian-style homes on Greene Street to make way for a warehouse.

In the first case, Sonny Pittman, the chairman of the Historic Preservation commission, said homeowner Steven Fishman renovated a house at 2231 McDowell St. without a permit and against the Summerville Historic District's guidelines.

"When you have a historic district where everyone complies to the same rules ... you've got to enforce them," he said, noting that Mr. Fishman replaced a slate roof with an asphalt structure and added vinyl-clad windows.

Mr. Fishman said he was unaware of the historic guidelines, adding that it would have been difficult and costly to replace original materials.

"I've had to go on blood-pressure medicine since this thing started, and I don't appreciate it one bit," he said of the dispute.

Preservation Commission members will meet with Mr. Fishman today to remedy the changes. As a result, Mr. Pittman said, city commissioners are considering raising permit fines for all homeowners from $360 to $1,000.

In the second case, Mr. Pittman said Billy Merry, the owner of Merry's Trash and Treasures on Broad Street, has asked to replace two Greene Street homes near John C. Calhoun Expressway - one built in 1892 for Edward B. Hook, a former senior editor of The Augusta Chronicle; the other built in 1902 for J. Austin Best, a former chief clerk to the Georgia Railroad's general manager - with "a pretty substantial-size warehouse."

Mr. Pittman said his commission will rule today on the homes, which he admits appear to be in a poor condition.

Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 828-3904 or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.

Augusta's Historic Preservation Commission will discuss Summerville district guidelines and rule on a request to tear down two Greene Street buildings at 5:30 p.m. today in the Municipal Building's eighth-floor conference room.