ALBANY, GA (WALB) - The wheels have been set in motion to expand Albany's historic district. The move would impact more than a thousand homeowners and property owners in six different neighborhoods, including portions of Arcadia, Cleveland Heights, Hilsman Heights, Palmyra Heights, Rawson Park and Rawson Circle neighborhoods.
One Rawson Circle homeowner says he's not happy about the idea.
"That's probably the politest way I can describe would be distasteful to have to go before anyone, any board, or group to get approval to do something to our own home," said resident Jac Roth.
Roth has been living in his home on North McKinley Street for 22 years. The house was built in the late-1940s. The expansion would mean Roth and other property owners in those neighborhoods would have to seek approval from the Historic Preservation Commission before moving forward with any major changes to the outside of their home like adding a wing to their house. Any changes would have to maintain the historical style of the property.
"I'm in favor of nice places, for people to live, nice neighborhoods, but I'm not in favor of anything that would encroach on our property rights," Roth said.
The proposal came after a survey by a historic properties specialist, History, Inc. The survey found more than 800 properties, most of them homes, that have historical value.
Leaders of the Albany-Dougherty Historic Preservation Commission say they're proposing the expansion to preserve Albany's history. They say the move could have a positive impact on the property values of the homes.
"Even though you're somewhat restricted in having to get approval for what you want to do to your own home, your neighbors are also subject to the same restrictions and overall the neighborhood is stabilized," said Gregory Fullerton, chair of the commission.
"We have a special history that only Albany, Georgia has. We're trying to preserve the best parts of that history for our children, and grandchildren, and great grandchildren."
Planning director Paul Forgey says expanding Albany's historic district is one way to preserve what makes Albany special.
"By itself, it's not going to save Albany or any neighborhood, but its part of things that a city can do to preserve neighborhoods and make them places where people want to live," Forgey said.
If the expansion is approved, it would impact also impact any new construction. Roxanne Braswell, senior planner of the commission, says the Southwest Georgia Medical Student Housing Complex currently under construction at West Fourth Avenue is an example of how the historic district regulations work.
"It's based on the 1900s Phoebe Putney Hospital," Braswell said.
"The materials, your landscaping, your retention ponds, your parking, even your fencing is considered," she said. "So you want something that's appropriate not only for that particular parcel and the area of influence but the entire historic district."
Roth says he's needs more information and time before he feels comfortable with any decision.
"What troubled me most is the sheer number that didn't even know it was going on," he said.
The HPC says letters have been sent out to every resident in the proposed expansion area. There is a Q & A session scheduled for Tuesday from 5 to 6:30 p.m. This is a more informal session for residents to voice their opinion before the public hearing on Wednesday at 10 a.m. Both meetings will be held at the downtown tag office at 240 Pine Avenue in Room 380.
After the public hearing, HPC will make a recommendation to Albany city commission who will make the final decision on whether to expand the historic district.