It's been about two years since the historic district overlay was implemented. How is that program working?
"We are still in our infancy, and there is quite a bit of turnover downtown so new people come in and they don't really realize that there is such a thing as a certificate of appropriateness. So there have been a few bumps in the road with people that have gone ahead outside of the process, but a lot of that is not knowing what they need to do. And again, there are some folks who on a philosophical level don't agree with the (historic district overlay). But I would say all and all, people who have gone through the (certificate of appropriateness) process successfully have been happy with the help we have given them and the outcome on their building. A lot of times we will be a resource for materials and processes that they may not have known about."
Watching the Centre Point controversy in Lexington, it seems like Winchester is ahead of a lot of larger cities in terms of promoting historic preservation.
"We worked a lot with the folks at the College of Design, which is the historic preservation masters program at UK, and we are also working with a consulting firm ... which is an offshoot. ... They have used our guidelines, our process as an example for other cities that they have written guidelines for. To be a town of our size and have three national registry districts is a pretty exciting thing - just to have those buildings downtown and to have retained those since the 1900s. We have retained 80 percent of the facades that were here in the early 1900s and late 1800s. That's a pretty dynamic number for a small town."
In terms of the whole philosophy of historic preservation, how far should a government go in regulating property rights in order to preserve a collective history?
"I think it's about community standards. That is why we went through a steering committee when we initiated this process. We had three steering committees, which were filled with people outside the Historic Preservation Commission who were able to talk about what they wanted to see in those guidelines. We had public meetings that people were invited to. Really there was only one naysayer in the whole process who philosophically had a problem with it. The meetings were publicized. So we try to take into consideration what the community would bear. So I don't think there is a line in the sand per se where you can say a government can go up to, but we try to make this process very democratic."
How much progress is being made on getting a historic designation for the South Park neighborhood?
"It's a very arduous process to document the homes and the area, and it's an honor to have. It's at the National Parks Service right now. It passed the state historic preservation office, and now it's on to National Parks. It's been a little under a year since we started that."
Are people in the neighborhood excited about the prospect?
"They are very excited. ... UK did a class that did the initial leg work for this registry nomination. We held a public meeting at the museum, and it was filled to capacity with people here that were interested in what we were proposing and interested in the history of the neighborhood."
Are there any big projects on the horizon this year for the HPC?
"The most important thing right now is to educate - educate people about what we have and the importance of what we have both economically and just because it's what makes Winchester Winchester. I mean, we have a very unique downtown and very unique, historic subdivisions that have been very well preserved. I think we just need to look at the long term and what it can mean for our descendants."
Contact Mike Wynn at email@example.com