Workshop geared toward educating commission members on their duties

Published 8:05 pm Tuesday, December 12, 2017


The majority of Washington’s Historic Preservation Commission has little experience when it comes to carrying out the commission’s duties and responsibilities.

Six members of the commission have less than 18 months serving. Mark Everett, Cheri Vaughn and William Kenner were appointed in the summer of 2016. Colleen Knight, Karen Mann and Kathleen Couch were appointed this past summer. Geraldine McKinley is the veteran member of the seven-member commission.

Emily Rebert, the city’s historic preservation planner, believes a workshop geared toward exposing the new members to those duties and responsibilities and helping them understand the guidelines they will be called on to apply in the city’s historic district would help them transition from commission rookies to knowledgeable veterans. To that end, such a workshop involving representatives from the State Historic Preservation Office in Greenville has been scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 17, Rebert said.

“It’s very important for everyone. I’m also finding there are a lot of new people moving into town into the historic district. This would also benefit them — to understand where the commission is coming from on its decisions,” Rebert said. “Although this a workshop for the commission, I’m trying to have it on a Saturday so other people can come and learn.”

Scott Power, supervisor of the State Historic Preservation Office in Greenville, which covers 27 counties, said, his office routinely provides training for new members of historic preservation commissions. “We do that as well as specific subject matters such as substitute materials, new windows or fencing, just whatever. We really respond to whatever they want us to come over and present to them,” he said.

The inexperience of the new commission members worried City Council member Doug Mercer.

In August, as council members discussed appointments to the commission, Mercer said, “We have only one individual on that board that will have more than one year’s (worth of) experience. We have three who were appointed in 2016. We have two that were appointed this year. … But if you appoint (Colleen Knight) or we approve her, that means that we have six members on that board with a year or less experience.”

He also said then that experienced members of city boards, especially the Historic Preservation Commission and Board of Adjustment, are vital because those two boards are quasi-judicial bodies that make decisions that are binding on the City Council.

The State Historic Preservation Office works with local historic preservation commissions in training new members. It also conducts workshops regarding new advances in historic-preservation laws, methods and building materials used in historic districts. SHPO has conducted several workshops and training sessions for Washington’s commission members in previous years.

Commission members are city residents appointed to three-year terms by the City Council. Among its duties, the commission develops guidelines regarding some construction activities — complete new construction to repairs to existing historic structures to demolition of existing structures — and applies those guidelines throughout the city’s historic district. The commission considers requests for major and minor works within the historic district. It may approve, deny or modify and/or place conditions on requests for those works. The commission also recommends to City Council properties to be designated as historic districts and landmarks and recipients of downtown Washington façade-improvement grants.

The guidelines govern items such as materials used in new construction or repair/replacement projects to materials used for fences and the height of fences.





About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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