Front Street property owner questions committee process for selecting architect

  • Wednesday, April 16, 2014

John Carr/Times The reamins of the seven buildings destroyed by fire in September have finally been removed from Front Street in Georgetown.

One of nine property owners, who lost buildings in the September 25 fire on Front Street in Georgetown, is asking why she and the others were not included in recent committee meetings.

The Georgetown Front Street Fire Consultant Selection Committee, made up of city and county officials, as well as a representative for the property owners, recently voted to recommend the LS3P Firm to City Council to conduct a Feasibility Study for the reconstruction of the 700 Block of Front Street.

Georgetown Mayor Jack Scoville said the city has followed city law — namely Section 2-187 of the Purchasing Ordinance — in forming the committee and notifying the public about the opening for a consulting firm.

Jeanette Ard, owner of Colonial Floral Fascinations, located in one of the buildings destroyed by the fire, said she doesn’t think property owners should have been “closed out” of those discussions.

“All of us should have been included,” Ard said.

“I am not unhappy with them trying to get the area to move forward because we need all the help we can get for that. I just don’t think that they should have been making decisions without representation of the property owners.”

She said although the city did appoint a representative for the property owners — Dwayne Christian, who is also a property owner in the burned section — that was not enough.

“I don’t feel like he was communicating with the property owners. He wasn’t getting input from us.”

She also said that Vida Miller, a former state representative who agreed to be a liaison between the property owners and the committee, was not communicating with her and other property owners.

“I didn’t feel like there was any open communication there,” Ard said.

Miller said she worked with the property owners to made sure they were informed.

She said property owners will be more involved in the process after Georgetown City Council votes to hire the architecture firm for the Feasibility Study.

“All of the property owners will be involved in that process,” she said.

Scoville said that City Council will hear from the three consulting firms during a workshop on April 24 and they should vote to choose a firm that day.

Steve Timmons, another property owner of the 700 Block on Front Street, said he is satisfied with the process to choose a consultant for the study.

“At some point you have to create a committee to get a smaller group,” Timmons said. “In my mind it was appropriate.”

He also said that he felt like there was communication from Miller and Christian.

Scoville said that all the property owners were not included in the committee because they are only one segment of the stakeholders.

“This is not solely for the property owners, but the primary beneficiaries will be the property owners,” Scoville said.

“We met several months ago with all of the property owners and it was loud and clear that they wanted direction and guidance from the city about what they could do and what the city wanted them to do. Because of that we went forward, reviewing proposals from various planners and designers to help the city and the prop owners and the public.”

He added that this project is a unique situation.

“Since it is in the heart of Georgetown, this project affects the identity of Georgetown and is important to the long-term development of the city,” Scoville said.

“The City has a vested interest that the facades are compatible and fit in with the existing streetscape and enhance it. We hope to work with property owners to get a consensus and basic design approval. We are not dictating how property owners design their buildings, but we want to make sure it is compatible.”

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