Planners table district changes

Published 10:34 pm Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Historic: This home on Park Way off East Constance Road is being considered for removal from the historic district along with many other properties, but many people feel it should stay in the district.

More than a dozen property owners, church pastors and historic preservation advocates showed up at a Planning Commission meeting Tuesday to voice their displeasure with proposed changes to the Historic Conservation Overlay District.

Members of the city planning staff have recommended that a number of areas throughout the district be removed because, according to the staff, the buildings are not historical enough and there are property maintenance issues in many of the areas.

Some of the property owners were concerned that removing the designation would give the city more leeway to take their property for road improvement projects. But many simply said their homes are too historical to leave out of the district, a designation that imposes stringent regulations on the types of material that can be used for maintenance and upgrades.

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“We feel that being in a historic district, and historic districts in general, adds value,” said Peggy Simmer, who lives on Katherine Street off East Constance Road.

The view of many of the owners stood in contrast to that of a Pinner Street property owner who, in February, won approval from City Council to refinish his home using vinyl siding — a material that is deemed inappropriate in the historic district.

That vote of Council overturned a decision by the Historic Landmarks Commission, which renders judgment on substantial changes to the exterior of any building within the historic district.

Barry Day, who just this month moved into a home on Bosley Avenue, said he understood why some people want to be out of the district.

But, he said, “There is more value to being in it.”

Several speakers referenced his home and a few others in the Bosley Avenue area, maintaining they should be left in the district.

Homeowners on Katherine Street and Park Way felt the same about their homes, which assistant director of planning Cindy Taylor said are mostly “recent vintage.”

“We feel that’s a very important piece of Suffolk’s history,” Peggy Simmer said. She said some of the homes are more than 100 years old and built in the Colonial Revival style.

Sue Woodward, a volunteer for the Suffolk-Nansemond Historical Society, supported the homeowners on both Katherine Street and Bosley Avenue.

“Those are some of the finest early 20th century houses we have in town,” she said.

Planning Commissioner Thomas Savage agreed.

“Katherine Street ought to be left in,” he said.

The commission tabled the matter for further discussion at its Aug. 16 meeting. In the meantime, city staff are expected to be in contact with homeowners who had concerns about their property.