Task force sets sights on preserving town’s historic structures

By Wesley LeBlanc
Posted 11/7/18

ORANGE PARK – After getting the go ahead from Orange Park Town Council, the newly-formed Historic Preservation Task Force of Orange Park is now working on ways to best develop and then implement a …

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Task force sets sights on preserving town’s historic structures

Posted

ORANGE PARK – After getting the go ahead from Orange Park Town Council, the newly-formed Historic Preservation Task Force of Orange Park is now working on ways to best develop and then implement a framework for preserving historic structures in the town.

Leading the charge is council member Connie Thomas, who came up with the idea after learning about the town’s hidden enclave of Mid-Century Modern homes, which she and other believe should be preserved for posterity.

“We need to decide if we want a committee or a board,” Thomas said. “Then, we’ll make a recommendation to the council and hope that they agree with us.”

The task force is going to wait until its next meeting to decide on which structure it should adopt.

“Boards are bodies that have, for lack of a better term, some type of government-backed power behind it,” said Town Attorney Sam Garrison. “They’re not just advisory. Committees themselves serve as opportunities to workshop issues and are more advisory.”

He said boards are typically made up of five people, with each member picked by a council member. Because of the responsibility boards hold, members on a board can only serve on one board at any given time. In short, boards hold more governmental power than committees.

“Regardless of the route decided on, you are all deemed public officers, so you must abide by the Florida Sunshine Laws,” Garrison said.

This means that the task force, and what comes of it in the future, whether it be board or committee, must make public notice of any meetings and cannot discuss any task force-related things in private.

From here, task force members each shared what they thought historic preservation in Orange Park should look like. Among the many opinions shared, it was clear that the task force has at least one primary goal: to ensure that the historical character of the town is preserved while maintaining civil reasoning in doing so.

“We don’t want to be forceful,” Thomas said.

The task force suggested creating historic districts with landmarks that designate a property or structure’s historical value. They also stressed finding a way to give the future board or committee teeth without damaging relationships with homeowners. To do this, they decided that homeowners should be included in the decision-making process.

Dane Lacey, the chair of Town of Orange Park Mid-Century Modern Enthusiasts and member of the Historical Preservation Task Force, said that the group also needs to focus on carving out exactly what it means for a structure to be deemed historical.

“Just because something is old, doesn’t mean it has historical value,” Lacey said.

This first meeting was short, but it’s clear the task force wants to preserve the historical value of some hundreds of historical structures within Orange Park in a way that is not only beneficial for the town, but the property owner as well. Whether or not this happens, though, is up to the Orange Park Town Council, which has the final say in what happens next for historic preservation in the town.

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