Marietta to vote on historic district

Marietta is on the verge of creating a  historic district that would limit what some homeowners can do to their houses.

If it's approved, owners of 29 homes would be required to seek “a certificate of appropriateness” from the city Historic Preservation Commission before making exterior structural changes visible from the street. Paint color and interior changes would not be controlled.

The City Council will hold a public hearing at 7 Wednesday night in City Hall and then vote on whether to form the Kennesaw Avenue Historic District.

The city surveyed homeowners in the neighborhood and 67 percent said they liked the idea of creating the district. Dennis Payne, owner of a wood frame house built in 1939, was not one of them.

“I’m against it because it’s my house and I don’t want anybody to tell me … what kind of porch I can put on it,” he said. “I’ve lived here 41 years and haven’t defaced it in 41 years. I don’t want to be told what I can and can’t do.”

The city says the district ultimately will protect property values.

“It’s a lot like a homeowners association,” said Shelby Little, an urban planner for the city. “You have some assurance your neighbor won’t build something inappropriate on their house that may affect your property value.”

Commission member Becky Paden said many people assumed the 175-year-old city of 68,000 people already had such an ordinance because history is such an important part of Marietta’s personality. History drives tourism. Marietta has six museums and is near Kennesaw Mountain, site of a major Civil War battle.

Several other cities, such as Atlanta and Decatur, already have formed locally controlled districts, said David Freedman, the commission chairman.

“The big issue is property rights, and that’s true to a certain extent,” Freedman said in explaining why Marietta didn’t have a local historic district earlier. “There’s a little bit of a sacrifice, but in the long run it benefits the community.”

Marietta does have five neighborhoods on the National Register of Historic Places, including Kennesaw Avenue, but those residents face few restrictions on what they can do to their houses, Little said.

“You could demolish your structure and they couldn’t do anything,” she said.

The City Council appoints the Historic Preservation Commission. The commission would approve demolition, additions or outside renovations to make sure they fit the look of the neighborhood. Paint color would not be controlled,  Paden said..

If homeowners disagree with a commission decision, they could appeal to the City Council and then to Superior Court.