Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Mason votes on district

Council agrees to create downtown-preservation guidelines

By Erica Solvig
Enquirer staff writer

MASON - City Council created a downtown-preservation district after a number of residents argued that establishing guidelines on exterior renovations would be good for revitalization.

The unanimous approval came after more than 90 minutes of debate Monday night and was met with applause from audience members.

"I see this as a small step, but a big result," Councilman Tony Bradburn said.

The district's general purpose is to guide new construction and major exterior changes on existing properties to create a more uniform appearance while preserving the original character of the buildings. It's the latest move the city has made to revitalize the downtown area and make it a pedestrian-friendly destination.

Owners of buildings that are deemed historically significant will have to meet standards set by the U.S. secretary of the interior if they want to make major exterior changes. They also would need approval from a seven-member design board.

That board will be appointed by the city manager with council's approval.

Council held off earlier this month on voting on the district, which is needed to apply for a $400,000 federal grant, because council members felt property owners did not fully understand what restrictions would be imposed.

But a number of residents and volunteers with the Downtown Mason Association spoke Monday about how downtown used to be a focal point of the community, with a theater and an inn. Many felt that these guidelines would help maintain what's still there and make it more vibrant.

"This is all we have left," longtime resident Don Williams said.

But some council members warned that there was still more to be done downtown, mainly bringing more businesses into the area.

"Until we make that area a destination that draws our families down there Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, we're not going to have the downtown that we're all dreaming about," Councilman Steve Osborne said. "It's the last step. It's the hardest step. It's also the most important step."


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