An initial survey of the city’s historic districts — mainly centered around the downtown area — was completed last fall by the Center for Public History at the University of West Georgia.
The survey found 580 structures — both commercial and residential — that qualify for historic status within the districts and those working on the project have been busy finalizing the district boundaries, completing the required forms for each structure, including field checking some of the structures to ensure accuracy and making nearly 2,000 photographs of all the structures.
“We’ve been working on the survey forms, labeling the photos, proofing all the forms,” said Dr. Ann McCleary, director of the Center for Public History. “They’ve retaken some of the photos and are checking some of the outbuildings to see whether they are contributing or non-contributing. Once that last bit of field checking is done, then I think we’ll be about ready to get it all together, printed and present it to the city.”
The Villa Rica Historic Preservation Commission is awaiting the final report to see what the city’s inventory of historic structures is before setting commercial design guidelines.
“As opposed to copying an ordinance from another city that really does not fit into the city of Villa Rica, we want our guidelines to be more in tune to what we have existing so we know where we are and where we need to go with it,” Community Development Director Taurus Freeman said.
The city doesn’t yet have a residential ordinance in place either, though one was in the process of being formed before the commission decided to wait to complete the commercial ordinance.
“We need the assessment to do the residential as well, but I think once we get started on the commercial we can have a product finished pretty quickly and have something to present to the mayor and City Council,” Freeman said.
Before any ordinance is put in place, the commission will first consult the Downtown Development Authority and the Planning and Zoning Commission to get everyone working toward the same goal.
“Those committees, even though they serve different purposes and functions, their goal is still the same,” Freeman said. “The Planning and Zoning Commission will have to approve it because it will change the unified development code and we’ll want the Downtown Development Authority’s blessing on it because it will affect downtown property owners.”
Eventually, a second phase of the historic structure survey will be done of structures outside of the historic districts themselves to see if they qualify, an d other districts may be set up. That survey was to take place earlier, but the number of structures found in the first phase was so large it was delayed.
“It was more than twice the buildings we were expecting,” McCleary said. “We were thinking maybe 200 or 250 buildings, so 580 is quite a bit more.”
McCleary said the goal is to have the report completed by the end of the UWG semester in May.