By Valerie Baldowski
Oak Street, in the City of Hampton, is now part of the city's historic district. Well, some of Oak Street is. Several home owners decided they did not want their houses included in the district, and a compromise was reached.
The Hampton City Council heard a second reading on, and voted to adopt, an ordinance to include Oak Street in the historic district. The vote came during its May 18 regular meeting. Oak Street joins Main Street, as being the only two city streets to be placed into the historic district.
The resolution to place Oak Street in the district was hotly debated, and ultimately, only some homes on the street were included, said Hampton City Manager Andy Pippin. "It was very controversial," Pippin said. "There were some very passionate people involved, both in opposition, and in support of it."
On Thursday, Pippin gave the Henry Daily Herald a guided tour along the part of Oak Street that has the homes included in the historic district. He said there is no formal registry, which will list the homes in the district, although the ordinance is expected to go into effect by the end of the month.
In order to get the ordinance passed, changes were made to the original resolution, he said. "The original ordinance for the historic district for downtown Hampton included pretty much all of residential Oak Street, from Main Street to the stop sign just in front of Southern States," said Pippin. "The ordinance, as it passed, differs in that we cut out about half of that street. We had many residents that were on the western half of that street, that did not want to participate in the historic district.
"The historic district now includes 1 and 2 West Main St., and goes down to, and including, 13 Oak St., instead of going all the way down Oak Street," he continued.
The disagreements stemmed from a lack of understanding, he said.
"Some people don't understand exactly what a historic district is," added Pippin. "People don't want to be told what to do with their houses."
The first time the idea was presented was during a meeting between the Hampton Historic Preservation Commission and residents in March. The commission drafted a resolution proposing to place Oak Street in the city's historic district, and the resolution was presented to the city council.
An expert on historic districts spoke to residents on the issue before a decision was made, said Pippin. "We had some people from the Department of Natural Resources from the state level come down and try to explain it."
Under the resolution, Oak Street home owners, wishing to make structural changes to their residences, will be required to obtain a "certificate of appropriateness" from the Hampton Historic Preservation Commission, said commission officials.
Reactions to passage of the ordinance were split. Oak Street property owner, George Mallett, said he opposed the inclusion of his home in the historic district.
"Most of the people on the other end of the street didn't want to be in it, anyway," said Mallett. He said he is satisfied with the city council's decision to allow some property owners to be excluded from the district.
"I'm OK with it," added Mallett. "I don't have any problem with it. The only reason I didn't want to be in it was because I didn't want anybody to dictate what to do to my house."
Larry Schulke, another Oak Street property owner, voiced support for the historic district. Schulke said, Thursday, that residents who opted out of being included in the district were segregating themselves. "My opinion of it is, I think they're missing out on the whole picture," said Schulke. "When they separate the street, they separate themselves from the whole historic district."
He said all homes on the street, regardless of size or appearance, are important.
"The whole street has history," added Schulke. "Our houses were built sooner than theirs, but they are still architecturally important to the whole picture."
Oak Street property owner, Grace Swafford, was one of those who requested, in writing, not to be included in the historic district. "I signed a petition," said Swafford. "I signed it because my family felt like the Historical Society would be demanding things of me. I couldn't afford it. I'm retired."
Hampton Historic Preservation Commission Chairman Cindy Hearn, and Commission Member Betty English, could not be reached for comment Thursday.