Tonight at 6 PM, October 14th, the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) is hearing another application for a Certificate of Appropriateness in the Concord Covered Bridge Historic District. You may remember this controversial issue from a couple of years ago. If you are interested in the process of regulating development in Historic Districts, this application raises some interesting questions. The development plan was heard by the HPC, heard a second time, appealed to the Board of Commissioners, was sent back to the HPC to be heard again, reviewed again by the Board of Commissioners, appealed to the Cobb Superior Court, and was recently remanded back to the HPC to be heard all over again.
The purpose of creating Historic Districts is to provide for the protection, enhancement, perpetuation, and use of the district, buildings, and structures having a special historical, cultural or aesthetic interest or value. The Concord Covered Bridge Historic District was the first such district created in Cobb County. This protection is done through regulation of any new construction and any material exterior changes to existing structures with a Certificate of Appropriateness.
The application in question is a very modern house designed by an architect for his personal residence–an “architect’s statement”. It is also located near four National Register Listed structures at the heart of the Concord Covered Bridge Historic District. The Historic Preservation Commission is the body charged with making sure that this new construction does not have an adverse effect on the aesthetic, historic or architectural significance and value of the historic property or the historic district.
In the previous application, the County required the HPC to consider all houses, even non-historic and non-contributing structures when deciding if the proposed design was “appropriate” or not. Because there exists a modern house somewhere else in the district, it must be appropriate to build one anywhere in the district. The Superior Court decision which remanded the case back to the HPC determined that this was not the intent of the law. The court found that:
The HPC erred as a matter of law by considering the proposed structure’s compatibility with homes within the historic district but not necessarily within the “immediate neighborhood.” The record reflects that [Applicant]’s vacant property is clearly situated within the confines of the “intact historic area” and such should be considered as the “immediate neighborhood.”
There were several other findings by the Superior Court. You can read the full decision here. If you are interested in the code governing Historic Preservation in Cobb County, you can find that here.
So tonight, October 14th, at 6 PM the application will be heard again. If you are interested in these issues come out. The meetings are held at 100 Cherokee Street, 2nd floor, Marietta, GA. There is an opportunity for public comment at the beginning of the meeting if you are affected by this decision and would like to heard.