Commission considers surveying San Marcos historic areas, landmarks

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Sections of San Marcos could be assessed to see whether they are considered historic in the coming months.

Following a recommendation from the Historic Preservation Commission on Thursday, the City Council will have decide Oct. 17 whether to pursue a historic resources and designated local landmarks survey.

Surveyors would analyze and research areas as well as the architectural styles, history and culture of structures. The survey would include GIS information of the structures surveyed; new photos of the structures; and a survey plan that includes future updates and recommendations for district expansions, new districts and potential landmarks.

Planner Alison Brake stressed just because a property is surveyed does not necessarily mean it will be included in a historic district or designated as a landmark.

“The survey is just for informational purposes,” she said.

The need for a survey comes about after a proposal to expand the Lindsey-Rogers Historic District and the Hopkins Historic District was denied by the planning and zoning commission.

Instead of voting on whether to expand the districts, the council postponed the item in July and asked staff to look into doing a historic resources survey.

The two types of surveys recommended by the National Park Service are Reconnaissance and Intensive surveys.

  • Reconnaissance: A “once-over” light inspection of an area, most useful for characterizing its resources on a general basis and developing a basis for deciding how to organize and orient more detailed survey efforts.
  • Intensive: A close and careful look at the area, involving detailed background research, inspection and documentation. Intensive surveys are designed to identify precisely and completely all historic resources in the area.

The original map proposal suggested areas immediately around the downtown area—from North Street to MC Allen Parkway and from the railroad tracks to Lindsey Street—have a reconnaissance survey done. It also suggested doing a reconnaissance survey in Victory Gardens.

After a brief discussion, commissioners decided to make both of those areas intensive surveys.

“There’s an unintentional message that gets sent when we have white neighborhoods protected, black neighborhoods protected and not Hispanic neighborhoods protected,” Commissioner Griffin Spell said. “I want to make sure we’re not sending that [message]by accident.”

The proposal to do the survey goes to the City Council for approval Oct. 17. If the council approves it, city staff will put the project out for bid to consultants later this fall. The project would start this winter and be completed in spring 2018.

Blake said following the survey completion, the hired consultant could recommend to expand or add new historic districts or landmarks. Those proposals would have to go through the Historic Preservation Commission, the planning and zoning commission and the City Council.

The city has seven local historic districts, which—if the survey is approved—would still be assessed:

  • Hopkins Street
  • Downtown
  • Dunbar
  • San Antonio Street
  • Lindsey-Rogers
  • Burleson
  • Belvin Street

The last time the city was surveyed for historic resources was in 1997, according to Brake.

“What’s outlined here for this first part of the survey, I think that it’s manageable,” Brake said. “It doesn’t seem too outlandish.”

Costs associated with the survey—including hiring a consultant to perform it—range from $15,000 to $150,000, according to Brake.

The city could apply for a matching grant with the Texas Historic Commission Certified Local Government program to pay for the survey, she said.

When a property is located within a historic district, any changes to the material or design of a structure must be approved by the Historic Preservation Commission.

Examples of requests for a Certificate of Appropriateness include change in exterior windows, construction of accessory structures, construction of an addition to the building, exterior signage and fences, according to the commission’s website.

Correction: This article has been updated with the correct name of Comm. Griffin Spell.

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Marie Albiges
Marie Albiges was the editor for the San Marcos, Buda and Kyle edition of Community Impact Newspaper. She covered San Marcos City Council, San Marcos CISD and Hays County Commissioners Court. Marie previously reported for the Central Austin edition. Marie moved to Austin from Williamsburg, Va. in 2016 and was born in France. She has since moved on from Community Impact in May 2018.
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