In the Zone West Elk land slated for rezoning; historical commission on table

Photo By Kristen Luther
Historic homes on Hattie avenue may possibly be protected in the future by the creation of a historical preservation commission under the auspices of city government.

  By Thomas Wilson
star staff
  With West Elk Avenue's landscape changing from heavy industry to retail business, the Elizabethton Regional Planning Commission is expected to rezone long-time manufacturing zone designation to pure arterial business at tonight's commission meeting.
  The Planning Commission will consider a change in zoning of several parcels along the block of West Elk Avenue from M-1 and M-2 manufacturing land use zones to a B-2 arterial business zone.
  "In order to have compatible land use in that area we are looking to rezone those properties to B-2," city Director of Planning David Ornduff said Monday.
  The rezoning covers property where the new Wal-Mart and Lowe's superstores have been built as well as the Elk Crossing shopping center.
  The rezoning proposal includes a public hearing for citizens to comment to the commission about the rezoning. The city's arterial business designation permits large retail and commercial operations but excludes heavy manufacturing developments.
  The rezoning proposal includes the Betsytowne Shopping Center, the former Inland Paperboard & Packaging facility, the North American Polyester property and the area surrounding Sycamore Shoals Hospital. The hospital property is zoned MR-1 for medical use.
  The rezoning proposal also includes the Elizabethton High School campus, which is presently zoned for manufacturing.
  The zoning proposal highlights a gradual shift in economic identity from major industrial employer to retailing town that the city has undergone in recent decades.
  Ornduff also confirmed that his department, along with city attorney, Roger Day, had gathered information about the creation of an historical preservation commission under the auspices of the city government. The commission would monitor city properties designated as historic, inventory all properties located within the city's historic district, and advise the City Council and government on proposed designations of preservation district, historical landmarks and sites.
  The proposal, which comes before the Elizabethton City Council at Thursday night's meeting, gives an overview of what steps the council could take to adopt an ordinance creating an historic preservation commission. The proposal recommends a commission of at least five and no more than nine members appointed by the city. Appointees should be professional members of historic preservation-related disciplines such as architecture, history, or archaeology, according to the proposal.
  The commission would also have oversight to grant certificates of appropriateness in the modification of exterior features to homes or properties designated as historic. The ordinance would prohibit any exterior change to a historically designated city resource. The commission could deny the certificate if the alteration did not meet certain criteria maintaining the architectural integrity of a home or property.
  Ornduff said he advocates the creation of the historic preservation commission to evaluate the cultural, architectural, and archaeological history of the city's resources. He added, however, that he does not expect the City Council to take action on the ordinance proposal at Thursday night's council meeting.