Preserving city history on agenda

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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


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

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chel 07/16/09 - 11:39 am
What is a shame, is that so

What is a shame, is that so many of us who live in North Augusta wondered why the city did not buy the two properties in question (Rosemary and Lookaway) and use those as the government offices and events location instead of the eyesore at the bridge that cost over 20 million. This is why they can't get but a few thousand to show up to support the building. Majority of residents in North Augusta did not support the new building nor it's location.

mad_max 07/16/09 - 02:55 pm
I just really have heartburn

I just really have heartburn with a local government making laws that affect a property owner based on arbitrary opinions. Any old building can be considered "historic" by some group of lunatics. If deemed so under a law a property owner can be stuck with an unmarketable maintenance nightmare. Local governments and historic organizations have the same opportunity to purchase property as anyone else and they can preserve it if they wish. But to make laws which allow a private citizen's property to be designated "historic" and limit what the property owner can do seems un-American to me. The statement that "home values have the POTENTIAL to increase" should only be considered if you focus on POTENTIAL. Because, more than likely, the home value and the surrounding home values tend to decrease when potential buyers realize that they may be restricted with what they can do with their own property. Historic preservation, if desired, should be done on the open market and at those "potentially increased" values.

pizzato 07/16/09 - 07:41 pm
Most of the "historic"

Most of the "historic" buildings are in the hands of lunatics! The best thing for some of these white elephants would be insure them to the max and hope for lightning to strike them. Like most anything else they have served their purpose and now we need to move on. North Augusta never has and never will be considered part of the antebellum trail so why not grow Hammonds Ferry and leave the old behind.

member 07/16/09 - 10:37 pm
chel, i think the building

i think the building is nice and I for the most part think our city govt does a good job. The planning of the building went on for a few years and no residents to speak of said a thing about it.

if you don't like it, move accross the river to Richmond cty....

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