Marietta designates first historic district
by Rachel Miller
August 17, 2013 11:49 PM | 6090 views | 3 3 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jim and Florrie Coley stand in front of their home on Kennesaw Avenue. The house has been in their family since 1922.<br>Staff/Jeff Stanton
Jim and Florrie Coley stand in front of their home on Kennesaw Avenue. The house has been in their family since 1922.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
MARIETTA — After years of debate, the City Council on Wednesday designated a group of antebellum homes on Kennesaw Avenue as Marietta’s first historic district.

Homes in the Kennesaw Avenue Historic District will be regulated by the city’s Historic Preservation Commission for external changes that can be noticed from the street.

A similar district was vetoed in 2010 by Mayor Steve Tumlin because he believed the required number of public hearings needed to form the district did not take place.

The 2010 proposed district included 25 houses along Kennesaw Avenue, beginning at its intersection with Maple Avenue and ending just before Atwood Drive at that time.

The new district is smaller with just 14 homes. The HPC shrank the district’s boundary lines because approval is needed from 60 percent of the property owners.

Of the 14 property owners in the new district, two asked not to be included: Maryann Park of 288 Kennesaw Ave. and Meg Tysinger Hartin of 298 Kennesaw Ave.

Councilman Philip Goldstein wanted to carve out the two lots from the district, but only received support from Councilwoman Annette Lewis.

Harton told the council that the other residents in the district are her friends and neighbors and did not want her request to opt out to adversely affect the area from being designated.

The council approved the district in a 5-1 vote with Goldstein opposed and Anthony Coleman absent.

Rules for everyone

Councilman Johnny Sinclair said residents cannot choose which city ordinances they want to follow. It is about what is best for the city and preserving a Southern, historic town, he said.

“I am sure there are a lot of people that would like to opt out of city regulations, like preservation requirements and building height,” Sinclair said.

Sinclair’s building height remark was a reference to Goldstein’s lawsuit against the city for preventing him from erecting a five-story building on the Square.

The new city district is part of the larger Northwest Marietta Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1975.

Becky Paden of Marietta, the preservation commission’s vice chair, said the national title is more honorary and does not have any binding regulations.

By comparison, the new Kennesaw Historic District was created by the City Council and is governed by the city’s Historic Preservation Commission.

Sinclair said other cities, such as Charleston and Savannah, have passed more extensive ordinances for historical areas.

“We are behind the game,” Sinclair said.

Paden said she hopes establishing the first district will raise awareness about the heritage of Marietta “and emphasize the importance of preservation.”

More than a home

The Kennesaw Avenue Historic District includes the Archibald Howell House at 303 Kennesaw Avenue that was built in the late 1840s, appraised at more than $800,000.

Near the northwestern intersection of Kennesaw Avenue and Maple Avenue sits Tower Oaks that was built by James R. Brumby in the late 1870s, a few years after opening Brumby Chair Company in the area.

Jim and Florrie Corley have lived in Tower Oaks at 285 Kennesaw Ave. since 1959, after Florrie Corley inherited the house from her grandfather, who purchased it in 1922.

Jim Corley, who has been married to Florrie for 57 years, said from the day the couple moved in, they intended to stay for the rest of their lives.

“It is the kind of place people want to settle,” Jim Corley said about his street full of long-time owners.

Marietta residents, he said, wait years for a chance to purchase a home on Kennesaw Avenue.

“I have never really lived in a new house,” Jim Corley said.

Sinclair, who has sold his share of historic homes as a real estate agent, said there is a story with these properties and a connection to the past. The setting, or neighborhood, completes the entire package.

“They love the sense of belonging and community that comes along with buying (an old home),” he said.

Tumlin said historic areas speak to a certain type of property owner, who is looking for more than just a house, but a way of living.

“The people that buy that type of home, love that type of home,” Tumlin said.

The history of preservation

The Georgia Historic Preservation Act of 1980 enabled cities and counties to designate historic structures and districts, often through government-appointed commissions.

In 2005, Marietta’s Historic Preservation Ordinance established the seven-member volunteer HPC.

Paden said after Tumlin killed the historic district plan in 2010, it took time for the crushed feelings of HPC members to recover, but this time around the commission “followed everything by the book.”

Tumlin said after all these years, HPC members are happy to have a district to start with that can be a model for the future. The district could be jeopardized if the Kennesaw Avenue Historic District does not reach expectations or develops into a problem for the neighborhood.

“If a district doesn’t work here, it won’t work anywhere,” Tumlin said.

It will be under the City Council’s discretion to adjust the district or dissolve it in the future, which is the same power given to any city ordinance like speed humps and digital billboards.

“Typically once you are in a district, it is unlikely you will come out of a district,” Goldstein said. “We made it extremely easy to expand the district.”

Brian Binzer, the city’s development services director, said the historic district designation shows the importance Marietta places on these structures. He also noted that if owners reinvest in the properties, it increases the property value and draws in greater tax revenue for the city.

“It really creates a sense of place,” Binzer said. “It is a real selling point for the city.”

But there is some apprehension by homeowners who do not want another hurdle to get a building permit.

Binzer said a new porch is an example of an addition that would require the applicant to present a plan and pictures of homes from the era that shows the renovation would be appropriate.

The first update to the district will be a monument sign, which was a $5,000 line item in the city’s fiscal year 2013 budget, at the entry point to Kennesaw Avenue right off the Loop near Monarch Park.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
August 19, 2013
It is about time! Marietta is behind the game, and this is a step forward in the right direction for Marietta. Congratulations!
August 19, 2013
What is there to prevent the Historic Preservation Commission from becoming a tyrannical as some homeowners associations? While I love the character and craftsmanship of these old homes, I generally do not support measures that limit a home owner's freedom to do as they wish with or on their own private property. And let us not forget that there isn't a single entity that has destroyed more historic homes in Marietta than the City of Marietta itself.
2 x 7
August 18, 2013
Only 14 homes, and not including Tranquilla? That is embarrassing.

But it is a start in the right direction. All the other homeowners in that area should be ashamed of themselves.
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