The process of rebuilding downtown took a step forward Monday night, at least in spirit, when the final draft of design guidelines were released for public consumption.
The Cullman city council held a first reading for the proposed document Monday night, and plans to approve it on Sept. 2 at a specially called meeting. Along with the first reading, the council also established a seven-person committee to review plans and issue Certificates of Appropriateness (COA) for proposed designs.
About two dozen downtown blocks ranging from Main Avenue to Arnold Street to Fifth Street — dubbed the overlay district — will be effected by the guidelines. Several of those blocks were damaged or destroyed by the April 27 tornadoes that hit the area.
Jock Leonard, with urban design team Leonard Design, said the document is a loose set of regulations meant to preserve the area’s historic aesthetic.
“This package mainly deals with generalities to the facades,” he said. “We’re looking to maintain the integrity of what the community has built over the years, and honor that heritage.”
After some initial debate, the council has decided to make the guidelines mandatory for business and property owners. Council president Garlan Gudger, Jr. said he believes the move will protect the long-term role of downtown in the community.
“I think we’d be doing a disservice, if people were dissatisfied with the status quo, to not do this,” he said. “When we rebuild bigger and better, we want to see the visions and dreams people have for downtown come alive. By making this mandatory we feel that within five years people will feel the positive effects of the design guidelines adopted this month.”
Retail recruiter Susie Hood, with the Cullman Economic Development Agency, said the guidelines should steer rebuilding toward complementary styles to mesh with existing historic buildings not damaged by the storms.
“No one is trying to restrict anyone, or snuff out taste or individuality,” she said. “This will help people while they rebuild, redevelop or rehabilitate to keep everyone together. Otherwise, it could be very hit and miss with no continuity in the historical downtown.”
The guidelines are meant to supplement the city’s zoning ordinance and work as a “design overlay” historic district. Building heights have been set at three-stories in the downtown core, and roofs shall be flat, gabled or hipped. Permitted facade materials include wood, brick and Ashlar stone.
Work to existing structures will emphasize retention and repair of historic materials.
New additions to existing buildings must be behind the original setback, as to not overshadow the original structure. Facades on expansions should also be compatible with the existing facade.
Copies of the complete, 52 page document are available online at the city’s website (http://www.cullmancity.org), or at the Cullman Economic Development office behind the Cullman County Museum.
Read more from Monday night's meeting in the Wednesday, August 10, 2011 print edition of The Cullman Times.
* Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.