Neighborhoods, Community Investments and Services Committee

Special Meeting Minutes

 January 3, 2017



Location:  City Council Chamber, 1st floor, City Hall – St. James Building; 117 West Duval Street


In attendance: Council Members Scott Wilson (Chair), Reggie Brown (Vice Chair),  Doyle Carter, Garrett Dennis, Bill Gulliford, Joyce Morgan.  Council President Lori Boyer was in attendance.


Also: Kyle Billy – Council Auditor’s Office; Peggy Sidman  – Office of General Counsel; Jeff Clements and John J. Jackson – Council Research Division; Juliette Williams – Legislative Services Division; Jordan Elsbury – Mayor’s Office


Meeting Convened: 9:34 a.m.


The topic for the Special Meeting was Historic Preservation Review Process for Blighted Properties.


Autumn Martinage, City Planner, Planning & Development Department, made the PowerPoint presentation.


Ms. Martinage explained that her staff reviewed blighted properties that the Municipal Code  Compliance Division referred to them.  The properties had to be at least 50 years old.  She provided statistics on the total number of property addresses reviewed since February 2015 and the number of them that had been determined to be of historic significance.


When Municipal Code Compliance refer property addresses to the Planning Department, a base file is created with information on whether the property is in a historic district or has been designated as a landmark; other information include photos, permit records, Property Appraiser information, Sanborn Fire Insurance maps and other miscellaneous information.  Staff visits the site and surrounding areas to ascertain architectural consistency.  Research for the property address attempts to determine who lived on the property and if any of the residents were individuals of note.


The final determining factors on whether  a structure of any historical significance include: if the property is located within the boundaries of a National Register or is a locally designated historic district; if the property has been designated as a local landmark; if the property is the work of a noted architect or builder; and if the property is an excellent example of its architectural style.


Ms. Martinage explained the origin of the 50 year benchmark rule.


The Chair, Council Member Scott Wilson, had asked Ms. Martinage and her staff to review specific properties located in his Council District.  Staff visited and reviewed properties in Glynlea and 548 Brunswick Road, in particular.  Pictures were taken and the property’s history was reviewed. The PowerPoint had pictures of the property that Ms. Martinage described and discussed.


Council Member Reggie Brown wanted to know if there had been any suggestions  of how to preserve the character of a neighborhood besides the designation as a historic district, with all of the restrictions that that designation entailed.  Ms. Martinage indicated that there were several designations that could be considered including a conservation district or listing on the National Registry.


Council Member Bill Gulliford commented that all designations are subjective. How do we determine if a structure is notable or if an individual is noteworthy?  When Ms. Martinage suggested that the staff relies on the experience of long time Historic Preservation Planner  Joel McEachin, Mr. Gulliford suggested that with all due respect to Mr. McEachin’s experience and knowledge, it is still a subjective decision being made.


Mr. Gulliford thought that there should be input from the Neighborhoods Department, Housing Division, Code Enforcement and others.  He invited staff in the audience to the podium to share their thoughts and to field questions.


Diana Seydlorksy, Chief, Housing Division, stated that her division’s work with properties had to be in compliance with State statutes and U.S. Department of the Interior’s guidelines.  She also underscored how the cost of rehabilitation work on properties was affected by historic designation.


Brian Mosier, Chief, Municipal Code and Compliance, shared his views on Jacksonville’s policy on blighted structure and structures of historic significance.  He indicated that the challenge is preserving historic structures but not if the condition of the structures threatens public safety.  He said that  the City makes every effort to preserve the historic fabric of communities.  He agreed that Jacksonville should assess what other cities do on the matters of the preservation of historic structures or the demolition of blighted structures, but the assessment should be on cities that are similar to Jacksonville such as Savannah, Georgia or Charleston, South Carolina.


There being no further business, the Special Meeting was adjourned at 10:37 a.m.


John J. Jackson, Council Research Division (904) 630-1729



Posted: 12:00 p.m.