Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Hopewell House gains historical designation.

Councilmember Matt Kunz votes against it.

by Carolyn Aspenson; The Milton Herald

July 08, 2013

MILTON, Ga. — Six councilmembers voted to approve the city-owned Hopewell House to receive a historical designation at the July 1 Milton City Council meeting.

Councilmember Matt Kunz voted against it.

"I don't think this was a good move for the city from an economical standpoint," Kunz said.

The five other councilmembers and Mayor Joe Lockwood agreed that the historical designation is important to the city.

"The vote was simply about the preservation of the Hopewell House, one of the oldest homes in North Fulton County, by approving it for historic designation," said Councilmember Karen Thurman.

The city plans to use the house as a senior center and possible event venue.

Kunz doesn't believe the home will generate the revenue other councilmembers believe it might.

The city purchased the home for about $250,000.

Kunz said the historical designation would require renovations that could cost the city upward of a million dollars.

"Part of this money will come from Fulton tax dollars," Kunz said, "but this is still a financial concern for now and down the road."

Kunz said plans for the property may not bring in the expected revenue and could leave the city with a property that does nothing but cost money.

"We already have a senior program through our arrangement with the C0ity of Alpharetta Parks and Recreation Department," he said. "I'm not sure a senior center is the right option for the Hopewell House."

He also said the event venue possibility brings about legal issues that could be of concern for the city, but Travis Allen, Milton Historical Commission member, feels it is a viable option for the property.

"Given the appropriate changes in the city law regarding temporary pouring permits, I see no reason why the Hopewell House cannot serve Milton in a similar fashion as the Mansell House does for Alpharetta," Allen said.

Kunz has other concerns about the property.

"Now that the city owns a property with a historical designation, any structural changes made to the property must be approved by the Historical Preservation Commission," he said.

Kunz said the city now owns a property it won't have complete control over, and future use is limited because of the historical designation.

"We may need to use the property for something other than a senior center or event venue and will then have to have changes approved by the Historical Preservation Commission," he said. "This can limit the potential uses down the road."

Allen said the design plan is still in the beginning stages, but agrees the amount expected to be spent on the property is high.

Any structural changes to the outside of the property would require the city to get a certificate of appropriateness from the commission, but that the inside of the home is not impacted by the historical designation.

"Regardless of how this home is going to be used in the future, how much will be spent on improving it for a future use or who ultimately owns the home, I believe that it is a historical asset of the city and one that we should and want to preserve," Thurman said.

Thurman also said there are no concrete plans for renovations and a specific cost cannot yet be determined.

Lockwood said he feels preserving the property as a historical landmark is important to the city.

"Sometimes it's not about just money," Lockwood said. "Sometimes, it's about something that can't be replaced, something that is important to the history and integrity of our city, and I believe this is the case with the Hopewell House."

This article appeared in the July 10 edition of the Milton Herald.

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