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Opponents vow to challenge historic-district proposal

Opponents of an ordinance to create an historic district in the City of McDonough say they will once again voice their displeasure at a public hearing on the proposal next month.

Jim Sherling, president and chief executive officer of the Genealogical Society of Henry and Clayton Counties, Inc., is an outspoken opponent, who has made his viewpoint clear. "It's no good for the city, and it's no good for the home owner," Sherling said when the measure was first proposed June 7. "You don't need an historic district. Don't get the government involved. Please, don't be so restrictive, and vote this issue in, which will just cause nothing but conflict between the home owners and the city."

The second public hearing is scheduled for July 6. The proposed district has been in the works since 2005, according to Robbie Robinson, chairman of the McDonough Historic Preservation Commission (HPC). McDonough once had an historic district along Jonesboro Street, but a lawsuit filed against the city determined that it was illegal, said Robinson. The courts ruled the district "null and void" in 2006, he said.

A map of the proposed district was drafted by a consultant, Bill Blankenship, of Woodstock. It was forwarded to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), revised, and sent back to the HPC, said Robinson.

The revised map, he said, includes parts of Lawrenceville Street, as well as parts of Keys Ferry Street, Jonesboro Street, Griffin Street, Macon Street, College Street, and Bryan Street. The original proposal encompassed more properties, but some lots were dropped because they were not adjacent to each other, noted Robinson. The properties must be "contiguous" in order to be included in a historic district, he added.

"They listed about 200 properties," he said. "The revised map is considerably less than that. There are pockets they [the DNR] eliminated."

Sterling's position has not wavered since he spoke out a month ago. At the next hearing, members of the McDonough City Council can expect to hear similar opposition from others as well.

The Genealogical Society is housed in the Brown House, located at 71 Macon St. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. If the historic district ordinance is enacted, Sherling said, the society would be under another level of restrictions.

The genealogical society leader said Shiloh Baptist Church, located at 262 Macon St., for example, would never have been built, if the area were zoned an historic district. Rev. Edward W. Lee, pastor of Shiloh Baptist, shared a similar view in opposition to the ordinance, when it was introduced.

"We would not be in favor of anything that would place any additional requirements on us as a church, as it relates to the continuing development of our campus," Lee told the city council. "With all of the present ordinances in relationship to the city (and) construction and expansion, I really would not want to have to face any additional restrictions in relationship to our vision for that particular property."

The boundaries of the proposed district also have drawn fire. "Having these willy-nilly lines, where half of Bryan Street is in the district, and half of Bryan Street is not in the district, that is simply just not fair," said resident, James Moss. "These houses [over there] are subject to no regulations; these houses over here are subject to … regulations. I don't think streets should be cut in half. I think they should be protected as a neighborhood ..."

The historic designation, though, will have some support. Jean Hanger, who lives on Lawrenceville Street and is a member of the HPC, agrees with some of the comments in opposition to the historic district designation, but thinks that all of Bryan Street should be in. "I don't think it's right to cut a neighborhood in half. That's not fair, that's not good," Hanger said. "The district is supposed to benefit everyone, not just the district."