Efforts to establish more specific standards and procedures regarding Georgetown’s Historic District are officially underway.
At a recent regular meeting, the Georgetown Town Council unanimously approved the establishment of a Historic District Study Committee. The council appointed 16 committee members, which includes two councilmembers, three members of the Planning Commission and four town employees. These members will be split into three subcommittees, one to research permitted uses, another to look at design standards for building materials and one to explore the feasibility of expanding the Historic District.
“I think [each committee member] brings a little something different to the table,” said Mayor Mike Wyatt. “I would only hope they would get in the right subcommittee for their expertise.”
The council also approved an agreement with URS Corporation for facilitation of the Historic District Study Committee. According to a proposal letter from URS, the company will facilitate committee meetings to discuss identified topics, facilitate one joint committee meeting to discuss the findings of the subcommittees, develop recommendations for each topic area and attend one meeting with the Town Council to discuss recommendations on planning tools and possible expansion of the Historic District.
The agreement has the town paying no more than $11,500 to URS, which will come out of the realty transfer tax, according to Town Manager Gene Dvornick. The total amount paid will depend on how much time and work URS puts into the project.
The vote to approve the agreement was 4-1, with Wyatt voting in opposition.
“I don’t feel real good about spending $11,500 on something I think [the committee] could do for us,” he said. “We need to understand if we go through this scope of work [URS] is going to do for us, and we make no changes at all [to the district], we’re going to throw away $11,500. I’m not real happy about that.”
The council gave the committee and URS six months to do research and report back.
Also at the meeting, the council partially and unanimously approved a development economic incentive request from the Onix Group, the developers of the Shops at College Park on U.S. Route 113 in Georgetown.
In a letter to the town, Ronald Schafer, managing member of the Onix Group, requested a waiver of annual fees associated with the Emergency Services and Georgetown Recreation, Education, Arts Trust funds. To justify the waiver, Schafer pointed to the establishment of a new community grocery store, construction jobs and permanent full-time jobs, as well as an estimated investment of more than $11 million spent in the area for labor, building supplies and materials.
Dvornick said the developer has received this benefit in past years through the town’s Economic Development Incentive Program, however that program was not renewed for fiscal year 2014.
Page 2 of 2 - “For each of the years we had it, it was advertised to all of the developers,” Dvornick said. “What we found, and this is historically true, is people have the funds to cover their projects, and incentives aren’t going to make a difference.”
The council discussed renewing the program in fiscal year 2015 “because it looks like, knock on wood, we’re getting new developments,” said Councilwoman Sue Barlow.
Based on the $4,152,000 construction value of the Shops at College Park development, the fee is $41,520. The council voted to waive half of that amount, making the fee $20,760.