TALLADEGA -- The ad hoc committee appointed by Talladega City Council President Dr. Horace Patterson to review and recommend changes to the historic preservation ordinance held what will likely be its last meeting Wednesday night at City Hall.
“Unless the council tells us to keep going, I think the committee’s work is done,” said city planner Robert Buyher, who has run the meetings since they began last month. “Everyone has come to the conclusions they came to. I’ll have all the recommended changes put together and give them to the council when they meet again later this month.”
Rather than reaching a consensus on where to make changes to the ordinance, Buyher said Patterson requested all suggested changes be submitted to the council, either in the main portion of the report or as a sort of minority report appended to the main document.
Nonetheless, the ad hoc committee reached broad agreements on some changes, including taking the Historic Preservation Commission (a separate body appointed by the council to enforce the historic preservation ordinance) out of the business of regulating paint colors and loosening the requirements of the sign ordinance in historic districts.
Currently, businesses are allowed 1 square foot of signage per 1 linear foot of store front, with letters no more than 1 foot high. The recommendation is for signage and lettering that is proportional.
Committee members the Rev. Hugh Morris and Dr. Adia Winfrey were the primary speakers at the Wednesday meeting.
Morris was primarily concerned with revisiting some of the enforcement language in the current ordinance, which includes both fines and up to six month in jail for violations. Most of the language used in the city’s ordinance, not including the provisions for jail time, are lifted directly from the state law.
“We can make the local ordinance more stringent than the state law, but we can’t loosen it,” Buyher said.
It was also pointed out, by committee and HPC member Nancy Lutchendorf, that even under current rules, a judge would have to impose penalties on anyone violating the law. Still, the majority present agreed the jail penalties should be removed from the ordinance.
There was also some discussion of recommending all of the staggered board terms end on a specific date, although everyone present agreed to keep the expirations in different years, to prevent a new board from having to start from scratch.
Committee member and former HPC member Jimmy Williams also suggested the council follow the ordinance more closely by appointing only members who live in the historic district, but a consensus did not seem to emerge on this issue.
Winfrey asked that the HPC and council look into expanding the historic district beyond the Square, the Silk Stocking District and Talladega College, particularly into the Knoxville community, where she lives. The law does provide for expanding the district, but no action has been taken along these lines since the original ordinance went into effect in the 1980s.
The council is expected to take up the recommendations at its Sept. 24 meeting.