KINGSPORT — In the city’s ongoing attempt to maintain the look and integrity of its historic districts, the Kingsport Planning Department is sending out friendly reminders to property owners about the rules and regulations governing those districts.
“From time to time we send out reminders to all of the property owners just reminding them their property lies within a historic district, and if they’re going to be making any changes to the exterior of their property that it will require approval from the Historic Zoning Commission,” said Ken Weems, planner for the city of Kingsport.
Notices went in the mail recently to property owners whose property lies within one of the city’s nine historic districts. Weems said there are roughly 250 parcels in the districts, which are the Boatyard, Church Circle, the Exchange Place, Park Hill, Main Street, Rotherwood, Watauga Street, White City and the Old Kingsport Presbyterian Church Cemetery located between Netherland Inn Road and Stone Drive.
Notices are usually sent out every couple of years, Weems said, noting the property could have changed hands and the new owner may not have been informed the property lies within a historic district.
Each of the historic districts has its own guidelines on the appearance of the property and the exterior of any structures. Weems said the rules cover such things as paint, the roof, porches, windows, doors, signage, walls and fences.
“In White City, district guideline say all of the houses have to be painted white. If you want to paint it red, you’d have to get permission from the Historic Zoning Commission,” Weems said.
Any property owner seeking a change to their property must seek a certificate of appropriateness from the Historic Zoning Commission — a group of local volunteers who decide if the changes to a property within a historic district are appropriate to the district. If the changes are within the guidelines, Weems said city planners could give in-house approval, and the request would not go before the HZC.
If property owners make changes without going to the HZC or the city’s planning department, Weems said planners would try to contact the owners, inform them of the guidelines, and work with them through the process. Weems said if the property owners continue to refuse to comply, the city’s building official would decide whether to cite them with a zoning violation.
“For the most part we don’t have much of a problem,” Weems said. “Since I’ve been here we did have one case where a gentlemen moved into a home and put up a fence in the front yard. He was unaware he was in a historic zone.
“We contacted him and actually had a called meeting, and it turns out the HZC found the fence was appropriate for the area.”
Ann Morison, chair of the HZC, said the historic districts are “a little taste of the past” and that citizens are very conscious of history in Kingsport.
“Sometimes (we have problems), but not often. It’s amazing how many people know or have neighbors who tell them what they’re supposed to do,” Morison said. “The three residential areas, they’re going to be 90 years old next year, and that’s a long time to keep houses almost just like they were when they were built.
“I think that’s a very good thing.”
Applications for approval and guidelines for the district are available at the city planning office and on the city’s Web site. There is no fee for the application. The HZC meets on the second Monday of each month at 1:30 p.m in the Bob Clear Conference Room in City Hall.