Before approving a local historic district, a certain number of public hearings must be conducted. And one of those required hearings wasn't conducted, City Manager Bill Bruton said.
City attorney Doug Haynie advised Mayor Steve Tumlin that leaving out that procedural step renders the district invalid, Tumlin said.
The Marietta City Council approved the district on Jan. 13 in a vote of 4-3 with Philip Goldstein, the Rev. Anthony Coleman and Annette Lewis voting against.
Tumlin said Goldstein alerted him Tuesday about the required public hearing that was never conducted. Although Tumlin as mayor has 10 days within the time a vote is taken to veto an ordinance, something he said he would have no problem doing in this case given Haynie's opinion, in the spirit of transparency, he asked Goldstein to call a special Judicial Legislative Committee meeting for today at 2 p.m. to discuss the problem and what the remedy is. Tumlin said he didn't want to be known as the mayor who vetoed historic preservation, but at the same time allowing a deficient historic district to stand unchallenged opens the city up to a lawsuit.
"I don't know what all the cures are. I hope that we can preserve all the work that we've done," Tumlin said.
The committee is chaired by Goldstein and includes members Van Pearlberg and Jim King.
Goldstein called it a learning process.
"This is the first district under this process and mistakes can be made going through a first-time process," Goldstein said.
Brian Binzer, the city's development services director, said to create a local historic district, the city's Historic Preservation Commission must conduct public hearings on the guidelines that govern the district as well as a hearing on the ordinance of the district itself. While the HPC conducted a hearing on the guidelines, it did not hold one on the district's ordinance, Binzer said.
"In essence, it was an oversight. It was an unfortunate oversight," Binzer said.
However, HPC member Becky Paden believes this is simply an effort to kill the historic district.
"I can only say that in rereading the ordinance, we (HPC) believe all the requirements have been met," Paden said.
"The ordinance calls for a public hearing before adoption of the district, but the HPC had two informational meetings, two public hearings and the City Council held two more public hearings - six total," she said. "This called meeting seems like a desperate last-ditch effort by opponents of historic preservation to undermine four years of work by HPC members, city planning staff, consultants, and wasting of the thousands of dollars spent on spent on following the ordinance provisions," she said.