Originally created 03/03/05

Facade of apartments is still unchanged



One week after the Augusta-Richmond County Historic Preservation Commission ordered the owner of the Richmond Summit Apartments on Broad Street to remove the building's new stucco facade, the company has not complied.

A representative of Ambling Development Partners LLC said Tuesday that the Atlanta company will abide by the commission's decision but added that the corporation hopes to work out a compromise allowing Ambling to make the building's alcove more secure without violating state or federal historic guidelines.

"Yes, we probably will go back before the historic board with the new design," said Ambling's Darien Lee. The new plans have not been created, however, and Mr. Lee said he does not know when he might present them to the commission.

During a commission meeting Feb. 24, Mr. Lee apologized on behalf of Ambling for not following proper historic guidelines after the company, with the approval of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, covered the building's alcove with a stucco facade to keep out vagrants.

Commissioners also said Ambling executives and HUD violated federal law by not informing the state Historic Preservation Office of the changes, as required by the National Historic Preservation Act. The act stipulates that federal agencies must review all actions that might affect a property listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The commission denied Ambling a certificate of appropriateness, a permit required for work involving a material change in the exterior appearance of a designated property and one the company should have acquired before construction of the facade.

The facade had to come down, the commission ruled, and Ambling even signed a contract promising to do so, Mr. Lee said.

Mr. Lee said he is waiting to receive a letter from the commission telling Ambling the date by which the facade should be removed.

The letter is already in the mail, said George Patty, the commission's secretary and director of the city's Planning Commission. Ambling has 15 days from the letter's postmark of Monday, or until March 16, to demolish the facade before the city can cite Ambling for noncompliance.

Commission Chairman Sonny Pittman expressed outrage that Ambling was waiting for a letter before acting on the commission's request.

"They haven't so much as followed any city, state or national procedure properly, and now sheepishly ask, 'What's our deadline to take down what we put up illegally?'" Mr. Pittman said. "It's time to start fining them for every day they are in noncompliance."

Attempts Wednesday by phone and e-mail to reach Ray Luce, deputy state historic preservation officer, were unsuccessful.

But Elizabeth Shirk, of the Georgia Historic Preservation Division, said the agency expects a new proposal from Ambling.

Mr. Patty thinks Ambling officials, who want an impenetrable alcove, and commission members, who want occupied storefronts, can reach a middle ground.

"Somewhere between the two there's got to be some compromise," he said.

Reach Kate Lewis at (706) 823-3215 or kate.lewis@augustachronicle.com.

What's Next:

Ambling Development Partners LLC has until March 16 to remove the facade from Richmond Summit Apartments or face citations from the city.

Previous stories:

Building's facade ordered off