The gist of the argument presented Monday was that the Historic Preservation Commission, the body which is charged with enforcing the ordinance as it is currently written, is concerned with making sure that relatively small historical details are observed by conscientious homeowners trying to keep up their property, while those who do nothing face no consequences at all. As the statute is written, property owners who do not maintain historic buildings can be fined up to $500 per day and jailed.
The resident said he just wanted to make sure the enforcement of historic preservation was handled fairly.
Councilman Donnie Miller said “all these property owners should be accountable, and that includes the absentees.”
Council President Horace Patterson said “it seems we have a sound policy, but it is not being enforced by the commission.”
Historic Preservation Commission member Nancy Lutchendorf pointed out that there was a very specific legal procedure that had to be followed, and that the board had followed that procedure. Legal actions against at least one negligent property owner are currently pending in Talladega County Circuit Court.
Miller said owners failing to keep up their properties “should have to pay three or 40 times what you and I pay, because they don’t care.”
Lutchendorf pointed out that she had been personally attacked on a large poster displayed in a store front downtown for trying to enforce the preservation ordinance.
“I’ve had people call me a Nazi at Wal-Mart because they said I wouldn’t let them paint their house a certain color,” she said.
Councilman Jarvis Elston then pointed out that the issue “won’t be solved tonight. We need to get the manager (Brian Muenger) and some of the owners and Mr. Miller.” Councilman Joe Ballow also expressed interest in participating.
“It sounds like,” Muenger said, “that the committee is working toward making sure everyone complies, but it’s not an overnight process. These buildings didn’t get this way overnight, and they won’t be fixed overnight.”
Patterson added that he felt enforcement authority should be invested more in the council, which is accountable to the voters, rather than to the commission, which is appointed by the council.
“Let them get mad at us,” he said.
Ballow said he also felt it was necessary to be somewhat more lenient with people who were making an effort, but were having difficulty finding the right parts or materials.
“You can’t change the overall appearance,” Lutchendorf said. “People have taken pictures of these places. They are historic for a reason. If you change the appearance, you could change that.”
Ballow said later during the meeting that he wanted to thank everyone who served without pay on the city’s various boards, and Elston thanked those present for reminding everyone of the duties of citizens and elected officials.
During the same meeting, the council also voted unanimously to approve a $90,000 appropriation to the Talladega City Board of Education that had previously been tabled at the request of Councilman Ricky Simpson. Simpson is the council’s liaison to the city schools.
The original appropriation would have been split down the middle, with $45,000 going to provide matching funds for the pre-K grant, and the rest going to the ACCESS Learning Program at Talladega High School.
Simpson’s amendment, which the council approved, moved at total of $15,000 from the ACCESS appropriation. Of this amount, $5,000 each was to go for programs to recondition football helmets, purchase band instruments and work on the baseball fields. Simpson said he came up with the amendments after meeting with Superintendent Doug Campbell and High School Principal Darren Anglin.
Campbell thanked the council and said he looked forward to continuing to work with him.
Also Monday night, the council:
O Held a reception for and saw Jason Busby sworn in as chief of police.
O Honored the Talladega High School girls’ volleyball team.
O Received informational updates on the Trane Project, CSX crossing work and Halloween activities.
O Approved a $15,249 contract with Talladega County to maintain 10 warning sirens in the city limits.
O Approved a policy allowing credit and debit card transactions in the finance and municipal court offices.
O Surplussed unused railroad tracks in the Bemiston community.
O Approved a contract for $39,500 with Insite Engineering to design and develop a lime feeder at the water treatment plant.
O Approved a $261,000 contract with CDG Engineering for the North Talladega County Water Project.
O Discussed a proposed paving project, which will be discussed in more detail during a called meeting Oct. 28 at 5 p.m.
O Discussed, but took no action, on a five point, long-term plan for the water systems in the Mount Olive community.
O Heard Muenger report that a Land and Water Conservation Fund grant the city had applied for earlier had made it to the next round in the application process.
O Approved an alcohol license for Jay’s Café, which will be opening Nov. 1 in the Diamond Lil’s building.
O Spent about half an hour in executive session to discuss the sale or market value of real property, as allowed by law. No action was taken once the council reconvened.
Contact Chris Norwood at firstname.lastname@example.org