Save Historic Norcross meeting brings out citizens' concerns

NORCROSS - About 30 people attended the first public meeting of a group called Save Historic Norcross on Sunday. The president of the organization, Anne Webb, opened the meeting with an explanation of the necessity of such a grassroots effort.

"This is the continuation of a project that started many years ago and brought us recognition in the National Registry of Historic Places," Webb said. "We've lost eight or possibly 10 historic places in the past few years, and 10 or 12 more are at immediate risk. We have another 12 or so being threatened."

The guest speaker at Sunday's meeting was Keri Stevens, community development coordinator for the city of Roswell.

"I've been interested in historic preservation since I was 11 or 12 years old," Stevens said. "I'm impressed with the condition of Norcross' historic structures and areas."

The purpose of a historic preservation organization in any city, Stevens said, is to recognize, protect and enhance historic properties. The advantages of doing so include maintaining a sense of place, ensuring smart growth and proper infill, and increasing property value. Preservation of historic properties also opens up the possibility of obtaining grant money for the same purpose.

The presentation Sunday included a question and answer session open to the public. Charlie Riehm, chairman of the Progressive Development Committee, asked Stevens what would motivate him as an historic property owner to opt into an historic district.

"The surrounding properties could not do anything to the exterior structure that is not compatible with the design," Stevens said. "Too, historic properties maintain and increase their value."

Webb had prepared several photo displays for the benefit of attendees. One group of photos displayed the historic properties in Norcross in danger of being lost to development, including several on Wingo Street and Cemetery Street. Another group showed recent development projects that are not compatible with the surrounding architectural design and are basically "eyesores," some residents said.

"The problem with many preservation ordinances is their lack of specific guidelines," said Chuck Cimarick, one of the directors of Save Historic Norcross. "The one we've proposed is less restrictive than most neighborhood covenants. We're trying to get folks to realize that even new structures can reflect the period."

The preservation ordinance to which Cimarick refers is now in the hands of the DDA (Downtown Development Authority).

"Usually, developers are happy to cooperate with whatever preservation ordinance is in place; they just need specifics," Cimarick said.