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Aldermen Appoint Members Of Preservation Commission

WATER VALLEY – Aldermen voted unanimously to appoint five people to serve on the city’s new historic preservation commission during a special meeting last Tuesday. The appointees include Water Valley residents Robbie Fisher, Mickey Howley, Chad Franks, Nicolas Trépanier and Leigh Anne Black, selections that were made after aldermen advertised for applicants in April and again in May.

The selections have been submitted to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History’s Historic Preservation Commission for final approval. 

“They are some very impressive people,” Mayor Donald Gray reported during discussion in the special meeting after aldermen reviewed the applications from each person. Gray also said the city received an application from a sixth person, but it was not turned in before the deadline.

Fisher is a lawyer, filmmaker, conservationist  and a former state director for the Nature Conservancy. Howley is the director of the Water Valley Main Street Association, a position he has held for over a decade. Trépanier is an associate professor at the University of Mississippi. Black has an architectural degree from Mississippi State University. Franks is a former history teacher at the Oxford School District. 

Tuesday’s vote follows initial work back in January when aldermen adopted an ordinance establishing a historic preservation commission to preserve, promote and develop the historical resources of the city.  The ordinance also included a temporary moratorium on any substantial alteration or demolition of any building within the existing downtown commercial district or historic district. The temporary moratorium was adopted for 180 days to preserve the city’s historical assets until the preservation district is adopted.

City officials noted that the designation of 106 properties that were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2012 as the Water Valley Main Street Historic District does not provide regulatory authority to protect the historic structures. 

Next Steps

Board attorney Daniel Martin told the Herald after last week’s meeting that the commission will be finalized after approval from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. The commissioners will then determine the actual boundaries of the city’s preservation district and designate landmarks or landmark sites. The boundaries could be similar to the Water Valley Main Street Historic District.

“They will sit down together and go through the maps to establish the district,” Martin explained. The attorney also said the public’s input will be vital in the process.

“The interest of the Board of Aldermen is to protect the interests of the home and business owners of the historic properties in Water Valley. To that extent it is a partnership between the city and those owners to preserve the historic quality of these buildings so that the City of Water Valley shall continue to prosper,” Martin explained. “We can’t prosper unless we work together, so it is going to be integral for the city to work with these individuals homeowners and business owners in this process going forward.” 

The process will include a public meeting that will be advertised seeking input on the proposed boundaries. After the hearing, aldermen will then vote on the boundaries and submit their proposal to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History for final review. 

When finalized, regulatory authority will include approval for new construction inside the district. For existing buildings, construction altercations will also require approval such as changes to the exterior façades of buildings in the district. 

Martin said that the regulatory authority does not extend to interior arrangements unless it is a publicly owned building. Exterior paint colors are also not included in the regulatory authority.

Demolition of buildings in the district will also be regulated including demolition by neglect.

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