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Vicksburg to update guidelines for historic downtown district

The addition of siding on this home at 807 Grove St. was halted after a contractor was denied a permit by the Architectural Review Board. (The Vicksburg Post/C. TODD SHERMAN)

[04/23/01] Just as a stop order was issued to a contractor installing siding, city officials are looking to update historic district guidelines to allow property owners to use building materials restricted under existing standards.

One such material, aluminum siding, was not widely used when the guidelines were written in 1973. If materials are not in the plan for Vicksburg’s historic downtown district, builders may not be allowed to use them, even on non-historic structures, said City Planner Ronnie Bounds.

“There are some issues that just were not in the original set,” Bounds said.

For Terry Pyron of Pyron Construction, that limitation meant he had to stop installing siding on a home at 807 Grove St., on the edge of the designated area. Half-way through the project, Pyron Construction received a work-stop order after the Board of Architectural Review denied the company a permit.

“There are several homes within blocks of this one with siding,” Pyron said. “The home on Grove Street is not historic.”

Individual properties can be listed on the National Register or deemed National Landmarks, affording some protection from alteration. But rather than selecting one property at a time, the downtown historic district was designated in 1973, and guidelines were written to limit changes inside its borders. When the district was expanded in 1986, the guidelines were updated, but no changes in the plan has been written since.

Bounds said parking lots and new construction in the historic district also need to be addressed.

“A lot of people are seeing new interest in moving back into town and into the historic district,” Bounds said.

When any city property owner seeks to build, expand or renovate a structure, city permits are required. If the address is in the downtown area, the application is checked for additional restrictions on exterior paint colors and such.

So far this year, 45 applications have been received for work in the district, he said.

The city is seeking proposals for historical design review guidelines. The project will be funded in part by a $2,500 grant from the Department of Archives and History. The city will fund $7,500.

In the meantime, the home on Grove Street is left half-covered in siding. Pyron admits that the foreman at the site should have gone through the process of getting city approval before beginning the project, but is asking the city Board of Mayor and Aldermen to grant special permission to complete the work.

“If they had stopped when the work-stop order was issued, they would not be half way through,” Bounds said.

Alderman Gertrude Young, whose ward includes the Grove Street address, asked to move the process along as quickly as possible for the sake of the resident, but before the board can take action, a public hearing must be held.

The public hearing process also requires a public notification at least 15 days before.

A hearing was set for 10 a.m., next Monday before the Board of Mayor and Aldermen at City Hall.