Planners recommend historic changes

Published 10:19 pm Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Suffolk Planning Commission voted Tuesday to recommend changes to the boundaries of the city’s Historic Overlay District.

The final vote took into account the concerns of several property owners who spoke at last months’ public hearing on the matter.

Planning Department staff had recommended the changes after City Council initiated a review of the district’s boundaries. Buildings in the district must adhere to strict regulations that govern improvements, maintenance and other major changes to the outside of the buildings.

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Staff recommended removing six areas from the district. But homeowners in the Gittings Street and Bosley Avenue area as well as in the Katherine Street and Park Way area wanted to stay in.

“We believe we do contribute to the historic significance,” said Peggy Simmer, a Katherine Street resident. The small cluster of five homes is located on what’s called Rose Hill, off Constance Road near Constant’s Wharf. “We believe this area should remain in the historic area.”

Some commissioners agreed.

“I hate to see that taken out of the district,” Commissioner Ronnie Rountree said.

However, staff members still recommended deleting the area from the district. The commission overruled them, recommending it to stay in the district.

The commission also voted to keep a few houses in another area in the district. The buildings at 117 S. Broad St., 706 Gittings St. and 109-112 Bosley Ave. will stay in the district after several property owners in the area protested the deletion of their homes during last month’s public hearing. The Suffolk Art Gallery, 118 Bosley Ave., also will stay in the district to keep it contiguous.

The staff recommended that change after speaking with property owners.

“It’s not about recognition, it’s about protection,” Simmer told the Planning Commission, saying that she cared more about protecting the historical appearance of the neighborhoods rather than historic designations like those available through state and national registries of historic places.

Sue Woodward, a volunteer for the Suffolk-Nansemond Historical Society, said she was glad to see some of the original proposals be overturned.

“I feel like it opens the door to spreading blight, and that’s what this was supposed to stop,” she said.

The issue will go to the City Council at its Sept. 21 meeting.