To provide a potential outlet for a local church to be included in Jefferson City's first local historic district, the city's Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved a request Thursday evening — despite some protest — that would allow a local historic district to be amended after it is already established.
The proposed language would amend city code and allow property owners who want their properties to be included in an already established local historic district to submit an application.
The application would go through the same process as a local historic district application. The Jefferson City Historic Preservation Commission and Planning and Zoning Commission would review the application and submit their recommendations to the Jefferson City Council, which would have final approval.
Under the current city code, a local historic district application cannot be amended without the historic district applicant going through the entire process again — including getting 75 percent of notarized signatures from property owners in the area and the applicant resubmitting the application to the city.
Under the proposed amendment, property owners who want properties included in an already established district must have parcels directly abutting the established district.
If an area containing 10 or more parcels wants to be included in an established historic district, the application must contain at least 75 percent of all legal property owners of parcels seeking to be added to the district, according to the amendment.
If there are less than 10 parcels seeking inclusion, it would only take a petition of those property owners, Jefferson City Senior Planner Eric Barron said.
The City Council will hold a public hearing Aug. 20 regarding the proposed city code amendment.
Last month, the council directed city staff to research ways to add properties to a local historic district after that district is already established after several people with Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church requested the church be included in the School Street local historic district application since the church has about 168 years of history.
The application currently encompasses 27 parcels — including properties in the 600 block of East McCarty Street, all of School Street, the 400 block of Lafayette Street, three houses on the east side of Lafayette Street, one house on East Miller Street and 500 Lafayette St. It does not include Quinn Chapel.
The City Council placed the School Street local historic district application on the informal calendar pending the city staff's proposed amendment.
"City Council could pull (the School Street local historic district) item off the informal calendar and vote on that in order to establish that district," Barron said. "That would put the district in place, and (if the proposed amendment is approved) that would allow the church to apply at their own leisure to be added to the district. It would put in place the mechanism for them to pursue that route."
Opponents at Thursday's meeting said while this would provide a route for properties to be added to established historic districts, it is not guaranteed Quinn Chapel A.M.E. will be added to the proposed School Street district.
"What I'm seeing now is the horse before the cart," said Glover Brown, executive director of Friends of Lafayette Street and The Historic Foot District. "(The amendment) will go to City Council and they'll say, 'Let's pass the amendment.' What happens is Quinn Chapel falls back under the purview and (must) go back through the process to see if it is approved but there is no guarantee that Quinn Chapel will be included in that district."
Adding another property to an already established local historic district could take two or three months, Barron said.
Since items on the City Council's informal calendar die after three meetings if there is no action taken, Barron said he was worried the School Street application would expire if the council waited to pass it until Quinn Chapel submitted its application.
Brown requested School Street district applicant Jenny Smith redo the application to include Quinn Chapel and resubmit it so the church does not have to submit its own application to be included in the district. Smith attended Thursday's meeting but did not speak during the public hearing.
Since the School Street local historic district application was already reviewed by the Planning and Zoning Commission and is now in the City Council's control, Barron said, the commission does not have the authority to place contingencies on the application or order Smith to redo the application.
While the amendment process might seem "cumbersome," Planning and Zoning Chair Chris Jordan said, "this is giving the opportunity, whether it's including Quinn Chapel or any other district, to be included in the School Street district or any other district."
Local historic districts contain design guidelines, and if properties were added to an already established local historic district, those design guidelines would apply to those properties. The Historic Preservation Commission may amend design criteria by ordinance if there is notice and a public hearing held.
Proponents of the local historic district application hope the district will encourage historic preservation and lift some federal floodplain regulations as the area is in a 100-year floodplain.
Smith submitted the local historic district application earlier this year, but city staff sent it back after it did not contain 75 percent of notarized property owners' signatures. The City Council signed the application in March as the property owner of 408 Lafayette St. so the application could reach the threshold.
The council approved a demolition moratorium for School, East McCarty and Lafayette streets in March 2017 and lifted that moratorium last November after residents said they were worried the city would demolish several buildings in the area in order to follow a 2006 city plan. The city plan calls for the area to be turned into green space.
Also on Thursday, the commission approved Central Electric Power Cooperative's preliminary Planned Unit Development plan for 2106 Jefferson St., along with 2003 and 2007 Southridge Drive. The company plans to construct a 33,000-square-foot, two-story office building, a 27,000-square-foot, two-story vehicle storage building, and a 11,250-square-foot single-story warehouse building.
The commission also approved its request to rezone the 2 acres to a Planned Unit Development.
The property is adjacent to the company's current 17,835-square-foot facility. The company plans to demolish the building, except for a 2001 expansion on the building.
As part of the plan, the company plans to do a mixture of open space and natural buffering between the surrounding properties, particularly between properties along Jefferson Street and Red Oak Drive.