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New guidelines to protect historic village
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Porterdale has the only remaining intact mill village in Georgia.

And, since 2001, the area north of Elm Street has been on the National Register of Historic Places. The ordinance puts in place guidelines that help protect the village’s historic significance.

At an upcoming meeting, the Porterdale City Council will vote on adopting an ordinance covering guidelines to maintaining the look of the village has been written, based on the recommendations of the Historic Preservation Commission.

But first, citizens can make comments and ask questions about the ordinance at a public hearing on Thursday, Nov. 19, at 6:30 p.m., at the village’s city hall located at 2400 Main Street (Highway 81).

“The idea behind the establishment of the [Historic Preservation] Commission and the designing guidelines is to keep the small town feel of Porterdale and the early 20th century design of the historic area without inhibiting growth in the town,” said Travis Byrd, Chair. “The Mill being turned to lofts is example of preserving history while allowing for Porterdale to grow into the future.

“The hearing will allow any of the residents in the historic district to come in and ask any questions or raise concerns they may have about the guidelines,” he said. “It’s been a really long process and we’re very happy that we’ve been able to create the guidelines and present them to the public so we can polish them [to] fit Porterdale.”

Byrd said drafting the guidelines was the first step for the commission. “Once the guidelines are established, anyone who applies for a permit to change the exterior of the property structures will come to the commission and will work through the design guidelines to get the building permits.”

“The general guideline is that the rehab and repair has to be consistent with the existing architecture of the mill village,” said City Manager Bob Thomson, liaison to the commission.

Thomson said the houses, many once owned by millworkers or managers, are built from simple materials. “It’s not like they’re Victorian mansions.”

Thomson knows what it takes – and costs – to restore one of the homes. He and his wife restored one of them, following the guidelines created by Georgia’s Historic Preservation Office, a division of the Department of Natural Resources.

Those guidelines, he said, are more specific than those from the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees the National Register of Historic Places.

“We rehabilitated the house on the interior and worked with [the state’s Historic Preservation Office] on the exterior.”
That made the couple eligible for a tax break. “It was a lot of paperwork, but we got a $5,500 state tax break,” he said, adding eligibility required them to keep documentation on the progress of the work as well as the completed project.

Mayor Arline Chapman, who also owns and lives in one of the historic homes, said, “When people start hearing ‘historic preservation,’ they thing, ‘Oh, they’re going to tell me what colors to pain my house.’ That’s not true. It’s not a dictator ship. People have the opportunity to go back and modify [plans].”

For example, she said, when she first bought her property, the original porch had been converted to a sun room. It is now a more traditional “rocking chair” porch, more in keeping with the original design of the house. Though the guidelines were not in place, the restoration would meet the commission’s guidelines.