Historic buildings a hot topic in Barnesville
BARNESVILLE — The fate of buildings along North Chestnut Street again served as a point of contention as village officials continued to discuss development of the downtown area while maintaining its historic status.
During a council meeting held Tuesday, Community Development Director Bill Knox presented to council his proposal that the village allow the private sector to redevelop three buildings acquired by the village in 2019 and 2020.
The village had purchased the properties with the intent to demolish them in order to provide additional parking as part of the ongoing downtown revitalization project and because prospective purchasers or tenants of the village-owned Bohandy Building on South Chestnut had cited lack of parking as a sticking point for finalizing a deal.
Council faced community backlash over this proposal during a council meeting in December as concerns were expressed by the group working to restore the Barnesville State Theatre and others that the plan would be harmful to the downtown area and could jeopardize its National Historic District status, which was established in 1984 with a Board of Architectural Review put in place in 1993 to oversee and help maintain the look of the downtown.
In his proposal, Knox suggested that the three buildings could be sold with the proceeds being put toward the installation of a 20-space parking lot in the area behind the buildings with an estimated net cost to the village of $165,000 to $265,000.
In making his point, Knox spoke of a cost estimate of $6.2 million for the construction of a multi-level parking garage on the site that used a $5.1 million budget figure from a plan prepared for the village in October 2022 by the WDC Group.
Councilman Tim McKelvey interjected, “I have never heard anybody say they want to spend $6.2 million on a parking garage, and Bill, I promise you, I’d vote no! Don’t bring that up again, please.”
Council President Les Tickhill and Councilman Terry McCort both pointed out that Knox himself had been a part of the decision-making process surrounding the three properties as part of the idea to expand downtown parking.
Knox concluded that he had always believed they should proceed only with the input and interest of village businesses and residents in mind, and it was his intention to have the options discussed publicly and openly.
Another matter concerning North Chestnut properties came to light as a building permit for the demolition of the Patrick’s Restaurant property, which is on the corner of Main and Chestnut Streets adjacent to the three village owned properties, was tabled pending the approval of the Board of Architectural Review.
Councilman Steve Hill cited a village ordinance requiring that the Board of Architectural Review sign off on any such demolition in the historic district, while Councilman Tony Johnson expressed his opinion that the village should not have that kind of power over the wishes of a property owner.
Luke Johnson, representing the Board of Architectural Review, spoke to the importance of there being oversight, saying, “If you don’t have these things in check you’re saying that anybody in the historical district can tear down buildings and put in whatever they want. If you open up that can of worms, you’re not going to like it.”
He stressed the importance of going through the proper procedures, and that the board was not in place to hinder property owners.
The Board of Architectural Review will be meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Council Chambers in the Municipal Building on Arch Street.