To move forward, town council must agree to safeguard historic district

by Trish Rudder

The Bath Historic Landmarks Commission met with the Bath Town Council  on March 23 to brief the council members on its guidelines that would protect historic landmarks in the town.

David Abruzzi, the Historic Landmarks Commission (HLC) president, gave a presentation outlining the proposed design guidelines and to answer questions and concerns the council members might have.

In his presentation, Abruzzi said the reason for the meeting was to inform and educate the council on the draft design guidelines and to reach a consensus on the guidelines.

The next step is that the council would agree to empower the Historic Landmarks Commission to proceed with the process of establishing a limited local historic district.

The council also would agree to establish protections in the form of requiring certificates of appropriateness for the limited local historic district.

This means any construction of new buildings and/or renovations that affect or alter the exterior of the building that are visible from the street would require the approval from the historic group.

The application would be submitted for approval of a certificate of appropriateness from the HLC, Abruzzi said.

Mayor Scott Merki said in an earlier town council meeting that he wanted ordinances in place by May 1.

As part of the presentation, Abruzzi showed pictures of buildings within a historic district that reflect  traditional architectural styles. They are primarily Neoclassical/Federal/Italianate, Gothic Revival, Second Empire, Queen Anne and the later styles of Art Deco, Arts & Crafts, American Four Square and Minimal Traditional, Abruzzi said,

A section in town along Route 9 East has Craftsman and Bungalow style homes.

“It makes me look at the community in a new light,” said Streetscape committee member, Rebecca MacLeod. “Each neighborhood is unique and that uniqueness draws people to the community,” she said.

MacLeod said the HLC meeting had good information, the council members asked good questions and the questions were answered.

Merki asked about placing awnings on a building. Abruzzi said he did not think that would be a problem unless the building was damaged by the awnings.

The mayor and town council members Rick Weber, Rose Jackson, John Bohrer and Chris Chapman attended the meeting. Councilwoman Elizabeth Skinner tried to attend by telephone but the call was unsuccessful. Town Recorder Susan Webster did not attend the meeting, Abruzzi said.

Commission members Abruzzi, Tim Newton, Donna Hoffman, Betty Lou Harmison, Rose Jackson and Zack Salman were in attendance. Ryan Rebant was absent.

Jenna Hansroth was the facilitator.

In Abruzzi’s introduction to the meeting, he said along with the other HLC members, he, too, has a passion for historic properties.

He has been a registered architect for more than 25 years. He earned degrees in Architecture with coursework in architecture history and historic preservation.

Abruzzi is a retired Air Force Lt. Col. who served 20 years as an officer in civil engineering.  He was stationed in the Middle East, in South Korea and in Afghanistan.

Abruzzi was stationed in the Washington, D.C. area at the Pentagon and retired in 2009.

“So in 2013, when the first time in our 20 years together, my wife and I had the opportunity to pick where we wanted to move, we picked Morgan County,” and bought a place in the western part of the county.

He said he’s offended when he hears that he’s an “outside elitist and don’t like West Virginians.”

“My wife and I are West Virginians by choice and we both volunteer in the community.”

He said he volunteered like the other HLC members “to put my knowledge to use to preserve the unique nature of the Town of Bath. And I have to believe everyone in the room here tonight agrees there is a unique nature here worth preserving,”

Abruzzi said he felt positive about the March 23 meeting.

“Scott Merki said he wants the district to grow,” Abruzzi said.