- Associated Press - Friday, July 17, 2015

TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (AP) - A proposal to create historic districts to help preserve Tybee Island’s older homes and buildings has received mixed reviews from residents and property owners.

Some say historic guidelines such as those used in neighboring Savannah would ensure the community surrounding Georgia’s largest public beach maintains its unique character. Others fear the proposal invites bureaucratic meddling that would drive down property values.

“This is about putting something in an ordinance that would benefit Tybee because it would protect what we have now,” said Jim Kluttz, a member of the Tybee Island Historical Society. “Historic preservation has made Savannah the tourist destination that it is.”

The island’s city council and its historic preservation commission heard residents on both sides speak out on the idea Thursday, the Savannah Morning News reported (https://bit.ly/1DkEtn6 ).

The proposal would establish three districts on Tybee Island, which has roughly 3,000 residents and a total land area of about 3.2 square miles, with a set of guidelines adopted to preserve the character of each district. Properties in those districts would need a certificate of appropriateness from the historic preservation commission before any material changes could be made to the exterior of a home or building.

“Our goal is to make this as simple and unobtrusive as possible,” said Sarah Jones, director of the island’s historical society and a key proponent of the plan.

Tybee resident and retired real estate attorney Stephen Friedman said he’s concerned vague guidelines and red tape could hurt property values on the island.

“What they have come up with is a solution to a nonexistent problem,” Friedman said. “This is going to have a chilling effect.”

It’s up to the island Historic Preservation Commission to weigh public comments and make a recommendation to the city council on whether to approve the proposed historic districts. Ultimately council members could make changes to the plan, reject it outright or seek more input from residents.

“You can have as many public hearings as you wish,” said Bubba Hughes, the city attorney. “I don’t think there’s a deadline for you to finish it.”

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Information from: Savannah Morning News, https://www.savannahnow.com

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