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Changes Provoke Heated Debate

The proposed changes in the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance for the Town of Bamberg evoked heated debate over the proposed installation of a Board of Architectural Review to approve homeowner decisions that would affect the outer appearance and historical architecture of properties in the revised Historic District.

The first reading of Ordinance 9-05 and 9-06 in a special meeting of Bamberg City Council Monday, November 2nd was tabled until a later date when another public hearing is scheduled to further allow the public and involved property owners to openly discuss their concerns regarding the town’s proposed ordinances and potential new ruling body where historical matters are concerned.

Many arguments were made that the proposed ordinances would infringe on property owners’ rights to choose paint colors and finishes for their homes, and the investment in these properties seemed very personal by those in attendance.

Ron Shattuck, owner of the “old Spann House” spoke to Council concerning the potential extremes of the regulating Board. “I don’t know how far we are all going to go with this process…if there are a lot of restrictions people may be discouraged from buying Historic properties… bureaucratic intrusions into the rights of the property owners may discourage people from buying these properties.”

Gene Schwarting, Planning Commission Chairman, explained that the proposed B.A.R. is intended to help protect property values by maintaining historic accuracy in the architectural and structural aspects of those properties considered to be historic as defined in the revised ordinances. “We don’t want to have any more layers of bureaucracy…we know that Bamberg has a lot of architectural and cultural heritage, and we want to protect and preserve that.”

The Revised Zoning Ordinance outlines usage of property, permitted structures, required landscaping, and many other topics, with the Comprehensive Plan as a citywide proposed guideline for regulating properties other than historic.

The proposed revisions of the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance are suggested as part of a required 10 year update, according to City Clerk Bruce Watson. The proposed changes are being discussed in public hearings in accordance with proper legal procedure, but the strong response from property owners during Monday’s meeting prompted Councilperson Nancy Foster to suggest a second public hearing, scheduled for Monday, January 4, 2010 to allow for continued public input.

Of the over 50 Historic District Property owners in Bamberg, less than 10 were in attendance, but their strong opposition to the proposed changes was clearly voiced.

Letters were sent to those who own property in the potentially affected areas, but property owners present described the letters as “too vague,” arguing that it was not clear that the letter was specifically for the recipients and not just a city-wide notice.

Watson noted that the letters were not required and were sent as a courtesy.

Zoning maps, the Zoning Ordinance, and the Comprehensive Plan are available at Bamberg City Hall for public review.

The second public hearing Monday, January 4, 2010 at 6 p.m. will offer those who did not attend a chance to voice their concerns to Council before the Ordinances are adopted.

 
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