Both local and state officials sound optimistic following a meeting Wednesday about whether Danville remains in compliance with state and national preservation guidelines.
The meeting of city of Danville staff, local preservation representatives and personnel from the Kentucky Heritage Council was called after the Heritage Council notified the city about potential problems with recent changes to local ordinances governing signs in historic districts. The Heritage Council had indicated the city might lose its status as a Certified Local Government, a designation with benefits that include pots of state and federal money for historic preservation.
City Manager Ron Scott said the meeting was a positive first step in talks between the city and the Heritage Council.
“It was a very productive meeting,” Scott said. “We talked about some things that they are going to consider. A lot of the discussion was on the sign approval process.”
Vicki Birenberg with the Heritage Council agreed it was a good initial meeting. She said staff likely will not begin reviewing the material or deciding what steps to take until after a conference scheduled for next week. Birenberg said the potential outcomes include deciding the program is in compliance without any further action; finding the city is headed toward non-compliance and making suggestions for how to avoid running afoul of the regulation; or finding the program out of compliance and making recommendations with a certain timeline for implementing them.
As part of its audit, the Heritage Council requested a long list of information from the city, including extensive records of the Danville Architectural Review Board’s actions, documentation of the city’s planning and education activities with regard to preservation, and the qualifications of ARB members.
The National Parks Service sanctions the CLGs along with state-level historic preservation agencies. The status allows towns to apply for matching grant money to do projects, such as inventories of historic landmarks, as well as receive advice from experts in areas such as restoration architecture.
Danville, which is currently one of 24 CLGs in Kentucky, got the federal seal of approval in 1994. It was the impetus for the establishment of Danville’s Architectural Review Board, an appointed body responsible for ruling on whether to permit changes to or demolition of existing structures in the town’s historic district.
In a letter from the Heritage Council to city officials dated May 22, obtained by The Advocate-Messenger through an open records request, the agency’s acting director, Lindy Casebier, said changes to the ARB and Planning and Zoning ordinances could jeopardize the city’s CLG designation.
“Some of these changes are detrimental to the local preservation program, and they compromise the city’s Certified Local Government status,” Casebier wrote. “If the Kentucky Heritage Council staff had been given the opportunity to review the proposed amendments before adoption, the agency would have made recommendations against making these changes and would have suggested alternatives.”
At issue are Chapter 4, Article 7 of the ARB ordinance and Articles 2 and 13 of the P&Z regulations, passed by the City Commission in March and April of this year, respectively. The ARB ordinance was amended to remove reviewing signs in the historical district, while the zoning ordinance was changed to give P&Z review of all signs and expand the types of signs allowed in the city and county.
Birenberg, though, indicated there could be middle ground. “A lot of what they talked about had to do with streamlining the process for signs,” Birenberg said. “It depends on if there is a way to do that without weakening the preservation ordinances.”
If the city is found to be out of compliance, Birenberg said the state could give the city a minimum of 60 days and as many as 180 days to make necessary changes.