Received 23 October 2014 on Alfred Willis comments at Valdosta Historic Preservation 2014-10-06. I added the [vote correction] and the links. -jsq
I attended tonight’s City Council meeting, and heard Dr Willis’ impassioned advocacy of the Council approving the historical preservation of the Nichols’ House. Our Historic Preservation Commission reviewed this and request recommended approval by a vote of five to one. Dr Willis sold me on the merits. Unfortunately, the Council must not have heard what I did, and unanimously voted against [actually all but one against] approving the designation. It looks to me, that as it stands, demolition of the house could commence tomorrow, and the replacement construction of the apartments for VSU students can commence.
A huge number of apartment buildings have been built over the past few years. First with the large complexes of Blanton Commons, The Gardens, and The Grove, to the numerous buildings along West Mary, Baytree Drive, Boone Drive and Oak Street, among others. Plans are still on tap for the major development of the entire city block just south of campus (one that I can actually appreciate). The question was mentioned to me tonight whether these “student” apartments are actually necessary. It seems enrollment at VSU, and thus the need for this housing, has plateaued lately, such that vacancy rate is relatively high.
I don’t know if the whole idea of the historicity of the house and lot went over the Council’s heads or what. Only Councilman Yost expressed any interest in preserving the house itself by having it moved somewhere else. But, like where? One of the determining factors of the house design was because of the shape of the lot.
Like I said, Dr. Willis’ presentation, which took up the whole fifteen minutes allotted to each side to speak, sold me on approving the designation, with an eye toward doing something for the city with it. The only one to speak against, by taking the entire fifteen minutes, was a lawyer alumni for the fraternity that owns the property, and wants to unload it, because the local chapter has ceased to exist. Selling it to a developer that wants to demolish it and build apartments makes perfect sense. They’re gone. They have no vested interest in Valdosta. They want to cash out and go their merry way.
Like I said, when the vote came in on the motion “to deny historical preservation status” to the property, it was a unanimous seven to none [actually six to one against]. I really thought they were going to table the motion until next time and taken a little time to consider, but the mayor had them go right to it.
The truth is, an apartment complex on the property, probably gets more revenue for the city than this unoccupied property does. Boiled down to dollars, the city would rather have the tax base of an apartment complex on a piece of property than this dwelling. The value of the Nichols House was much more esoteric, and I don’t think the Council could see that aspect. Thus, the vote. I think it a shame.