Fairhope re-visits historic preservation ordinance

FAIRHOPE, Ala. (WALA) – Fairhope prides itself on its history and its single tax corporation, but right now the city doesn’t have an ordinance that will protect and preserve its history. It has been visited in the past and was met with much debate. Now, city officials are ready to move in that direction again.

Founded in 1894, Fairhope isn’t one of the older cities on the Gulf Coast, but it’s certainly unique. The colony’s founding fathers based its government on the single tax source of revenue that’s still in place today. City leaders want to preserve Fairhope’s history and are funding a $9,000 study to update their historical database.

“So that we can get a better handle on what we do have and we’re trying to protect the things that we want to protect,” said Fairhope Mayor, Tim Kant. “We’d also like to work together with    homeowners to keep that same feeling we have in Fairhope.”

To protect historical sites or property, the city will need to adopt a historic preservation ordinance. It’s something that has been tried before in 2001 and again in 2011, but it was met with strong opposition. Donnie Barrett is the Director of the Fairhope Museum of History and remembers the prior attempts.

“It was not well received. The ordinance wasn’t really well written. It was rather threatening when it really didn’t need to be and unfortunately it wasn’t well received by Fairhope people, particularly the old-timers of Fairhope,” Barrett recalled.

The debate essentially boiled down to two sides. Those who were in favor of historic preservation and those who didn’t want infringement on their personal property rights. City leaders are hopeful that this time around an ordinance that both sides can live with will be approved.

“I’m not real sure where we have to get, but not doing anything, I don’t think is a good thing,” Kant said.

While most agree that something needs to be done, Mayor Kant says that it may still be some time before we see an ordinance on the books.

“I think it will take a year. Fairhope citizens, they want to think about it, debate it and kick it around for a little bit. If you don’t take the time to do that, it’s not going anywhere,” he said.

The city will be updating their comprehensive plan in October and Kant says public input will be heard after that.

The historical survey should be completed within 60 days. It will look at expanding Fairhope’s historical zones south of downtown to the American Legion and north of town into Montrose.

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