With more than 200 years of history to Lebanon’s credit, city officials may have the chance for it to pay off for residents, businesses and other entities in the near future.
The Lebanon City Council met Tuesday with Dan Brown, who oversees the institution of programs for the Tennessee Historical Commission, and Kim Parks, executive director of the newly formed Historic Lebanon, to hear about the chance for Lebanon to start historic zoning within the city.
“We have 33 already established, so I go in and work with communities to get established,” Brown said. “We don't control anything. We have no legislative control. Our role is to be advisory. We are here whenever there is a challenge or question. We are here as a resource to make it work.”
Brown said the Tennessee Historical Commission would help the city create a historic preservation commission, with members to be appointed by the mayor, to recommend historic areas and guidelines for landmarks, buildings and other areas.
Brown said most importantly, locations deemed historic would have special access to grant money, and he said the Tennessee Historical Commission gets about $1 million a year. He said the grants are 60-40 matching, and between $10,000-$60,000 grants are given annually for upkeep of buildings across the state.
Brown said the historic areas could be customized based on the district and could include landmarks, such as the Gen. Robert Hatton statue on the square, the first Cracker Barrel store or the Campbell house on Coles Ferry Pike. City Hall, the former site of Castle Heights Military Academy, and many of the buildings on or around the Cumberland University campus would also qualify, among others.
Lebanon Planning Director Paul Corder said the city and Historic Lebanon are partnering to reach out to potentially historic home and building owners to garner interest in the program.
“The mayor has basically said he wants to see at least a 50 percent buy in from the residents before it’s considered,” Corder said.
Corder said the proposed plan wouldn’t change current zoning within the city, but there would be an extra zoning classification added to areas deemed historic by the city historic preservation commission and the state.
Brown said an added benefit to having a home or building within a historic district would be the effects on property values.
“There has never been shown a negative property value,” Brown said. “It's very positive from that standpoint.”
The council plans to review the information and possibly bring it up for approval at an upcoming meeting once it hears from more historic business and homeowners.