Wednesday, June 13, 2012
The Chickamauga City Council is dealing with issues regarding preservation and the proper utilization of downtown property.
During its June 4 meeting, the Council approved spending $2,800 to secure a state grant of $4,200, which requires the grantee to supply 40 percent of the total, that earmarks a total of $7,000 to conduct an inventory of all buildings, structures and objects built prior to 1972 within the city.
This survey of all buildings more than 50 years old is part of a statewide program aimed at helping communities preserve their historic buildings, local landmarks and neighborhoods.
The National Park Service considers all preservation as being local and its Heritage Preservation Services offers guidance in protecting historic properties. It is impossible to preserve the unknown, so the city will use a Georgia Department of Natural Resources grant to inventory all old structures in Chickamauga.
The survey will document the location and ownership of buildings, collect readily available historical information concerning the buildings and catalog them photographically.
The City Council will adopt a request for bids to undertake this project during an upcoming meeting.
During last week’s meeting council members decided to revisit a decision made during their May meeting to rent a city right-of-way to a local business owner. The property in question is the alley that separates the Chickamauga Depot and Oh! Fiddle Dee Shoppe on Gordon Street.
The alleyway had become an eyesore — the space between its graffiti-covered walls was strewn with broken glass and garbage — and was frequently noted in police reports.
Angie and Jerry Davis, owners of Oh! Fiddle Dee, entered a leasing arrangement with the city that allowed them to close the alley as a public passageway and create a garden space in the small area which measures about 700 square feet.
The Davises have been praised for having landscaped the space at their own expense but criticized for expanding their business onto public property.
Angie Davis said she has secured liability insurance and is billed for water used for the alley’s garden. She explained that gates to the area are locked when there is only one person available to oversee both the store’s interior and the garden. Both gates are open during downtown events and the gate opening onto Gordon Street is open when there is sufficient staff at Oh! Fiddle Dee, she said.
Saying the alley had been “a nightmare” during the nine years she has operated her business, Davis thanked council members for allowing her to develop the outdoor terrace and said she regrets any problems and misunderstandings its creation might cause the city and other merchants.
Clay Massengale, who with his wife Donna owns Sophie’s Fine Gifts and Collectibles, said he recognizes the garden terrace as a “good business investment” and something that is good for the city. But Massengale said it is his “strongly held opinion” that it was understood the gates would remain open at all times when the council initially approved his fellow business owner’s lease.
Massengale contends that if it is closed off, the alleyway becomes, in effect, a retail space. Not only that, but he said “the rent of $25 a year is not realistic.”
According to City Manager John Culpepper, the rent was based on a similar leasing arrangement with the local Shop-Rite. That store leased about 7,000 square feet of right-of-way, paved it and uses it as a parking lot. The grocery pays $600 a year for use of the property. Culpepper said if the same fee was levied, the alley’s roughly 700 square feet would carry an annual rent of about $56.
Councilman Randal Dalton said the main benefit of leasing the property is that it enhances all downtown, though perhaps Davis’ shop more than others, by making “something nice” of what had been an eyesore.
Something that was overlooked initially was that since the city has no ordinance concerning the disposal of city-owned property it must either have the property appraised to determine a value or solicit public bids for its disposition.
This week the city is advertising that the alleyway is available for rent and will accept offers for its lease. During next month’s council meeting bids will be opened and a decision made as to who will lease the property, for how much and if there will be restrictions placed on its use.
“We are going to figure this out,” Councilman Robert Roberson said.