Architectural Guidelines: Comp-Plan or Code?

In less than two weeks, local St. Augustine reporters from Historic City News will watch as city commissioners revisit the architectural style issue in the city’s Historic Preservation Districts.

Planning and Building Director Mark Knight said a proposed ordinance would allow the City Commission to make style changes without the extensive state review required in Comprehensive Plan changes.

After an hour of wrangling, Commissioners Crichlow, Freeman and Vice Mayor Errol Jones prevailed in a vote to conduct further study and seek public input at their May 24th meeting before taking any action.

Mayor Joe Boles and Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline support making property owners in the Historic Preservation Districts suffer the four, five or six month comprehensive plan amendment process before obtaining approval to make architectural style changes.

“We’re raiding our Comprehensive Plan’s Historic Preservation Element,” Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline protested. “From a 94-page master plan, now we’re down to five pages. I object.”

Mayor Joe Boles agreed. Under the current system, the Architectural Guidelines for Historic Preservation is integrated into the city’s Comprehensive Plan. The state has oversight of comprehensive plan changes — and the amendment process is slow once a plan is adopted.

If the Architectural Guidelines for Historic Preservation were moved from the comprehensive plan to the city codes, they could be modified or rescinded by a majority vote of this, or any future City Commission. That apparently has some people worried.

“This (proposed ordinance) would give future commissions the opportunity to have different visions,” Commissioner Don Crichlow countered, “visions that we cannot create the history we want, but nurture the history we have.”

The Architectural Guidelines for Historic Preservation currently dictate that only colonial style architecture be allowed throughout the historic area south of the Plaza.

Boles and Sikes-Kline were on the losing side of a 3-2 vote to table the proposed ordinance until May 24th to allow for further review and public comment.

Last year, Crichlow, who is an architect, proposed reprising a late 19th century commercial building that once stood at St. George Street and Cathedral Place — arguing that it was a true representation of another era.

Among other features, the Architectural Guidelines for Historic Preservation dictate zero lot line construction – building up to the sidewalk. “This just doesn’t fit HP-1,” Crichlow said.

Photo credits: © 2010 Historic City News contributed photographs

Share your thoughts with our readers >>