Harold Williams “Bill” Funderburk Jr., a retired attorney and owner of Books on Broad, is Camden’s newest municipal judge.
Camden City Council voted unanimously during its regular meeting Tuesday to authorize a contract with Funderburk as a part-time, contract judge, effective immediately. He replaces Michael Stegner, who announced in mid-June that he would be retiring.
At the request of Councilman Walter Long, City Manager Mel Pearson explained how council arrived at its decision. Following a council executive session discussion on how to proceed and after placing a newspaper advertisement on four different occasions in June, the city received 12 applications by a June 27 deadline.
“Council received copies of those applications, had two other occasions to discuss a personnel matter and made the decision that we would pursue this contract,” Pearson said.
He clarified after the meeting that the difference between Stegner’s and Funderburk’s contract is that Stegner was employed as a city employee and Funderburk is not. As a contract municipal judge, Funderburk will receive no benefits. According to a copy of the contract attached to Tuesday’s agenda, he will be paid $24,000 per year.
In other business during Tuesday’s regular meeting, council voted unanimously to:
• pass second and final reading of an ordinance rezoning two properties on Church Street and one on Clyburn Lane from B3 to B1 -- Pearson explained that the difference between the two zones is that B1 allows certain manufacturing and assembly processes that are not allowed in B3;
• approve a resolution authorizing the closing consumption of beer and wine during the 24 Hours of LeMons Parade on Sept. 19 from 6 to 10 p.m. on Broad Street between DeKalb and York streets; and
• approve the reappointments of Byron Johnson and Bill Ligon to the Camden Planning Commission with terms ending and Dan Lovett and John Miller to the Board of Zoning Appeals, all with terms expiring Aug. 31, 2018.
Councilwoman Laurie Parks asked that, in the future, it would be helpful for council to know when commission and board members were originally appointed as well as their participation rates in board and commission meeting.
Earlier Tuesday, council met in an afternoon work session featuring a presentation by Winter & Company’s Abe Barge. Winter & Company is consulting with the city of Camden on revisions to design guidelines used by the Camden Historic Landmarks Commission (CHLC). A CHLC open house for the public to review the guidelines and ask questions was scheduled for Wednesday evening.
During the work session, Barge said his firm took the original 1987 guidelines, looked over current policies and made revisions in order to bring ease of use and clarity to both CHLC members and property owners. In addition, he said, it incorporates “solution-oriented approaches” and adds in what he said were “missing areas” in the original guidelines.
Barge and other Winter & Company consultants were in Camden on Tuesday and Wednesday meeting with city staff, council, CHLC members and assisting with Wednesday night’s open house. He said next steps include adding more Camden-specific illustrations to the guidelines, presenting a third draft to the city and assisting with their adoption.
Barge then provided council with an overview of the guidelines, primarily in terms of how to read and interpret them rather than on particular revisions. First, he spoke of what historic preservation means and its benefits.
“So, it’s really about keeping historic properties in use, not about preserving things in amber,” Barge said. “We recognize that changes will happen to historic properties and historic districts while maintaining their overall character and while maintaining the key characteristics in individual historic structures.”
Benefits Barge mentioned include maintaining Camden’s unique character and ambiance; maintain or increase property values, including those of surrounding properties; generating tourism, including heritage tourism; and specific financial incentives for owners of historic properties, including tax credits at the state and federal levels.
Next, he pointed out that the design guidelines are an interpretation of U.S. Department of the Interior standards. They are used to assist property owners with maintenance and constructions, and to assist the CHLC with their review of building permit application for those properties which fall under its purview.
The foundations for the revisions, Barge said, are the city’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan, the city’s code of ordinances and the already existing guidelines.
The guidelines are split into five chapters: Preservation Principles, Treatment of Historic Resources, Guidelines for Non-Historic Buildings, Guidelines for New Buildings and Guidelines for Signs. Barge provided at least one example from each.
Photographs and sketches are used extensively, marked with an “x” to mark how something should not be done, a check mark to indicate how something should be done and question marks to indicate possible alternatives. From Chapter 1, for example, Barge showed off page 29 of the guidelines which covers choosing a treatment for a residential property, specifically an enclosed bungalow porch. On the page are four illustrations: the starting condition of the current porch, an accurate reconstruction of the original porch and then two optional approaches -- a simplified historic one and a contemporary interpretation.
“One of the principles we talk about is treatment strategies when an historic feature is missing or beyond repair,” Barge said of this example. “Generally, what we look for in a situation like that is that it’s always going to be compatible if you have information about what the porch looked like … to do an accurate reconstruction.”
In addition, according to the draft guidelines themselves, accurate reconstructions can be performed on buildings that are “highly significant … older than mid-20th century and retains integrity; the needed materials and craftsmen are available; and the context has many intact historic buildings.”
“In many cases, it may also be compatible to do a simplified historic interpretation, especially if you have a vague idea of what the porch might have looked like,” Barge said.
Finally, the contemporary interpretation is valid if there is “substantial alteration making other options difficult,” according to the guidelines, “there is less information about the original design and the (neighboring) context has more variety.”
Barge went on to discuss examples of including preserving architectural details (Chapter 2, page 38); and locating and designing an addition to a non-historic residential structure, i.e., not officially listed as historic, but located within a designated historic district (Chapter 3, pg. 103).
While he showed example pages from chapters 4 and 5, Barge spoke more generally about new building construction and signs.
“Earlier in the document, we talked about different contexts within historic Camden,” he said, referring to Chapter 4 on new buildings. “There might be some differences at how you look at compatibility of a new building from one part of town to another. Certainly, on smaller lots and ‘gridded’ streets, it’s really important that a new building line up with the existing ones.”
For signs, Barge said the guidelines would address mostly signs that would be compatible on residential structures being adaptively reused.
Barge said the third and final draft of the guidelines should be available in September. He said Winter & Company hopes to find ways to better explain the sustainable features of historic buildings.
“It takes a lot of energy to build a new building. These historic buildings represent a lot of resources,” he said.
Following Barge’s presentation, Mayor Tony Scully said he was “blown away” by the “beautiful document,” noting that “every page” appeared particular to Camden. However, he wondered how much community “buy-in” there is for the guidelines.
“As I was reading the document, I kept thinking, ‘Do we have a cadre of architects, contractors and builders who are conversed with all this who will buy into this?’ because it would be so great if there were,” Scully said.
In telling a story about having a houseguest who is the retired manager of the Capital Hill Historic District in Washington, D.C., Scully also suggested that CHLC decisions and explanations be placed on the city’s website for citizens to read.
Barge said not many cities do that, but thought it was a “great idea.”
Parks said the revised guidelines will allow property owners to “do their homework.” Councilman Willard Polk agreed that the guidelines are now “absolutely … more user-friendly” for both property owners and the CHLC. His only concern is that there are no guidelines for commercial properties and suggested that such guidelines be looked at for further development.
Following Polk’s comments, Councilman Long expressed his concern over the fact that CHLC decisions can only be appealed to the circuit court. He said he had checked with other communities that said they had an appeals process.
Barge said he has spoken with Camden Planner Shawn Putnam about updates to Chapter 158 of the city code, which governs the CHLC. Parks, however, said she is certain that state law requires decisions of boards and commissions like the CHLC must go directly to circuit court for appeal. Putnam confirmed that, adding that only staff decisions can be appealed to the CHLC itself. Polk suggested the matter be addressed by the city’s attorney.
Specifically on the guidelines, Long said that one thing that appears confusing is window replacement.
“It seems like a lot of the document is flexible … but if the commission is inflexible, then you have some inconsistencies,” Long said. “Someone might say, ‘Well, that looks very different from the street and you have to go back with (the original) windows; there’s no alternative.’ When I read this document, I can’t tell where there’s flexibility. It says the same window should go back in and then it says vinyl is not appropriate. But it says vinyl can be used.”
Branch said where the “very visible, primary façade” is concerned, replacement windows should be of the original material. He said there are points where the guidelines are flexible, but the commission may choose to work conservatively.
Long said there are replacement windows now of modern material that mimic older materials to the point where the public can’t tell the difference.
“We’re discouraging (residents) who are trying to do improvements to their home, but we tell them they’ve got to go an expensive route and so they don’t do anything,” he said.
Branch said the problem with cheaper replacements is that they do not last long. He did say, however, that if the city wishes to go with even more flexibility, it can certainly do so.
Councilwoman Alfred Mae Drakeford said she had heard similar complaints as Long. She said she thinks the revised guidelines will help “tremendously,” but that there are still some issues that need “some kind of resolution.”