In its first consideration of whether to designate a proposed historic district, the relatively new DeKalb County Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) voted at its June 4 meeting to remove Emory-owned property from a historic district proposed by the Druid Hills Civic Association. The vote followed a two-hour public hearing attended by about 200 people.
Although Emory favors the designation of the Druid Hills residential area south of North Decatur Road as a historic district, the University objected to the civic association's inclusion of Emory property north of North Decatur Road within the proposed district's boundaries. Designation of an area as a historic district by the HPC means that property owners within the district are required to obtain HPC approval before making any changes that would significantly alter the appearance of their property, or before building any new structures on their property, in order to preserve the unique architectural and landscaping character of the district. These requirements are in addition to existing zoning and land use statutes.
In his address at the public hearing, Director of Campus Planning and Construction Russ Seagren said that Emory's planned comprehensive master plan project makes including Emory property in the Druid Hills district unnecessary. Seagren said that unlike the residentially-oriented Druid Hills plan, the Emory master plan will focus on preserving the architectural character of the campus in the construction of institutional buildings.
The question of including Emory property in the proposed district proved to be the most contentious issue in both the public hearing and the HPC meeting that immediately followed. Some residents felt it was important to include the Emory property to act as a protective buffer for the central core of the Druid Hills district. A number of residents from what was referred to as the Haygood triangle, however, argued against including their neighborhood, which consists of both Emory-owned property and owner-occupied homes that are more contemporary than those in the center of Druid Hills. As defined by the residents, the Haygood triangle is bounded by Haygood Drive, North Decatur Road and Ridgewood Drive. Those residents argued that including their property in the district would place inappropriate restrictions on homes that are not historic in character.
Also a topic of much debate was the use of Peavine Creek as a district boundary. The civic association's plan called for the boundary in that area to extend significantly into the Emory campus, taking in much of the Fraternity Row area. Four of the five HPC members who voted said that the eastern bank of Peavine Creek (on the Emory side) would be a much more appropriate boundary.
The HPC voted 4-1, with one abstention, to recommend approval of the proposed historic district without the Peavine Creek area and Haygood triangle property. That recommendation will be forwarded to the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners, which will make the final decision.