Historic showdown in Oakhurst
Threats. Intimidation. Yard signs. Snotty e-mails. Yes, the knives are out in Oakhurst, where the proposed creation of what would be Decatur’s largest historic district has resulted in a nasty neighborhood-wide squabble in which many homeowners have been forced to choose sides.
Terry Michel, a real estate agent who says she supports voluntary design guidelines rather than city imposed building restrictions, says sheâ€™s stopped discussing the issue with neighbors because the rhetoric on both sides has become too overheated.
â€œThe vitriol is off-putting to me,â€ Michel explains. â€œItâ€™s like watching Ann Coulter debate Al Frankin.â€
So what is it about a historic district that has so many peoplesâ€™ knickers in a wad?
Mainly, the argument comes down to control over oneâ€™s own property. If a house is included in the district, then the owner would need to get a â€œcertificate of appropriatenessâ€ to tear it down, build an addition or make significant exterior changes. Construction plans that arenâ€™t seen as keeping within the historic character of the neighborhood â€“ say, replacing a 1920s Craftsman bungalow with a modernist stucco triplex â€“ may not be allowed.