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Key to future properly protecting city’s past

Brookhaven officials need to carefully consider how they want toproceed with a historic preservation ordinance, which is a requiredcomponent of helping Brookhaven Little Theatre seek a grant torestore The Haven Theatre.

It also is an ordinance that may determine this city’sfuture.

With the 2006 grant application deadline passed and the next onenot until late next year, aldermen now appear to have the necessarytime to properly consider their next course of action.

Preservation of historic structures and the character of thiscommunity is an important goal pursued by many community-mindedindividuals in Brookhaven. But historic preservation ordinances area two-edged sword that can dictate the architectural aspects ofremodeling and construction in the district.

Making sure property owners can live with a historicpreservation ordinance is among a myriad of issues to be addressedbefore a new law can be enacted. Other issues include how muchauthority would be ceded to a preservation commission, who wouldserve on said panel and what kind of ordinance would pass stateDepartment of Archives and History muster, as well as otherquestions that could arise during discussions.

Following a meeting Friday with an Archives and Historyrepresentative, an ordinance provision that would allow a propertyowner to “opt out” of historic district inclusion appears to be adefinite deal-breaker if the city hopes to become a Certified LocalGovernment Community. In other words, there wouldn’t be any”islands” surrounded by a historic district “sea.”

On a positive note, city board desires to target four structures- The Haven, the Alexander Teen Center, the Chamber of Commercebuilding and the Multi-Modal Facility – got a “thumbs up” duringFriday’s meeting. However, we agree with the Department of Archivesand History that the commission – and not the city board – shouldmake recommendations on what should be included in a historicdistrict.

Over the years, Brookhaven has lost several architecturallysignificant buildings due to fires and attempts atmodernization.

On Cherokee Street across from the Haven Theatre once stood twobeautiful 1800s era buildings. A few doors down, across the streetfrom the Post Office also once stood a beautiful three-story turnof the century building. All three were destroyed by two separatefires and replaced with the basic brick structures we have todaywith no consideration of aesthetic value.

Attempts at modernization during the 1960s saw the loss of otherarchitecturally important downtown buildings on Whitworth Avenueand Monticello Street.

We have a unique situation in downtown Brookhaven, anchored bythe architectural beauty of the buildings of the Mississippi Schoolof the Arts. Our downtown area can become a showplace that willbring investment and economic benefit to the city.

But doing so means an organized effort with guidelines toprotect the character of the downtown area. Finding a way to dothat which makes everyone happy will be difficult but well worththe effort for the future of our community.