LaFayette, Ga., tables plan to make part of downtown a historic district

LaFayette, Ga., tables plan to make part of downtown a historic district

September 13th, 2011 by Andy Johns in News

Ashley Meeks changes out a summer engagement display for an autumn-themed one at Chapman Jewelry and Repair in downtown LaFayette, Ga., Monday.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

Proposed LaFayette, Ga., historic district

LaFAYETTE, Ga. -- City officials heard plans that would label a portion of downtown LaFayette a Historic Business District but, facing opposition from merchants, decided to table to issue.

"It's a good point to head toward," Mayor Neal Florence said of the plan, which would offer guidelines for businesses to stick with historical design when they apply for building permits.

City economic development director Catherine Edgemon said the designation is meant to capitalize on the city's historical appeal.

"It's not saying that downtown is bad; it's the opposite," Edgemon said. "It's saying LaFayette's downtown is special."

But businesses in the 22-block area of downtown are concerned about costs.

Attorney William Slack, speaking for the business owners, pointed at the guideline's author, Paul Simo, when he addressed the council.

"I don't need him to legislate what we need to do," he said.

Business owners were concerned about requirements increasing the cost of maintenance and repairs and the challenge of selling property to buyers who don't want to comply with the rules. Slack suggested the city could subsidize changes if it wanted to require improvements.

Simo said existing buildings would be grandfathered in and the rules would apply only to business owners when they apply for permits to build or modify in the zone.

"It will not cause a police force that comes out and tells people what color they can paint things," Simo said.

In the end, council members voted to delay their decision until they and business owners had time to digest the 100-page document. Council members Wayne Swanson an Andy Arnold suggested that Edgemon take the plan to business owners in the district and get a response from each.

"Eveything you're saying is wonderful," Swanson told Simo and Edgemon. "The merchants are the most important thing in our city. When they sign it, we'll know where they stand."

Contact staff writer Andy Johns at ajohns@timesfreepress.com or call 423-757-6324.