This coming year the Georgetown-Scott County Planning Commission will conduct its five-year review of the comprehensive plan, offering an excellent opportunity to review and expand protections for Georgetown’s historic buildings.
The preservation of historic buildings is widely regarded as an important tool to foster a sense of community and connection to local heritage. In a rapidly growing community like Georgetown, protecting that identity and sense of place is especially important. The 2017 Scott County Comprehensive Plan dedicated an entire chapter to the topic of “heritage” and outlines several recommended courses of action to expand historic preservation in Georgetown.
Scott County has an exceptional inventory of buildings on the National Historic Register, due in large part to the work of local historian Ann Bevins. Bevins conducted the original survey of historic buildings in the 1960’s for the state preservation commission after the passage of the 1966 Historic Preservation Act and her incredibly thorough survey resulted in the admission of 72 buildings and 12 districts to the national register. However, listing a building or district in the National Register does not offer protection against demolition or alteration. While the IRS and state of Kentucky offer tax incentives for business owners to rehabilitate buildings on the National Register they do not restrict property owners from demolishing historic buildings if they do not opt to participate in the tax incentive program.
Georgetown currently offers protection to buildings with frontage on Main Street between Warrendale Street and Montgomery Avenue. No buildings or stone fences of historic significance within this area can be demolished, moved, or significantly altered without the approval of the Georgetown Board of Adjustment. However, there are many buildings and districts of significance outside the historic district that are not protected. The comprehensive plan lists the Sanders House, Shotwell House, Buffalo Springs Distillery, and the John Graves Memorial Hospital as just a few historic buildings lost to neglect or demolition and notes “several additional buildings are at risk for loss due to lack of adequate regulatory framework to help protect them”.
Over the years there have been several proposals to expand the local Historic District without success. The current comprehensive plan suggests revising the local historic preservation district ordinance to include an architectural review process and to include all properties with national register designation and any other local cultural resources.
Historic preservation ordinances benefit the entire community by protecting important cultural and historic resources and maintaining the charm that make our communities desirable places to live and work. By revisiting and implementing the suggestions of the comprehensive plan Scott County can protect our heritage as we continue to grow as a community.