B.G. group wants say in saving properties


BOWLING GREEN - Saving four old houses along South Church Street while alleviating traffic congestion at the nearby post office seemed to some city officials like the best solution to a controversial problem.

But members of a historic preservation group formed to save the houses say they feel like they've been left out in the cold.

“While they're saying they're willing to negotiate, they're not negotiating at all,” said Kim Layden, acting chairwoman of the Boom Town Preservation Society.

City council could decide tonight whether to move forward with a scaled-back plan for a 16-space parking lot and a new mail drop-off point for the downtown post office.

Such a move would require council to repeal its July 15 decision to rezone a block of South Church Street from residential to central business district. That also is on tonight's agenda.

Council president B.J. Fischer said council will meet in executive session at 7 p.m. to discuss acquiring the property. Its regular session begins at 8 p.m.

Ms. Layden said members of her group plan to be at the meeting in full force. Last month, after council voted to rezone the property so that the houses could be razed for a parking lot, the Boom Town group gathered 1,603 signatures on petitions intended to put a referendum before voters in November to reverse the rezoning.

Now, if council restores the residential zoning and adopts the new proposal, the referendum would no longer be needed.

“I think there are 1,600 people who signed our petition who are mad as hell that that choice is being taken away from them,” Ms. Layden said.

While city officials contend the compromise plan should please the neighbors because it preserves the South Church Street houses, the Boom Town group said the new proposal goes too far by using about 40 feet of the homes' backyards for the parking spots and drive-through lane. Garages and mature trees behind each of the houses would be removed under the proposal.

Mayor John Quinn and City Administrator John Fawcett said they believe the compromise plan is a fair one.

“It does address the concerns expressed to city council and still achieves the goals and objectives the city would have, which is primarily improved safety at the post office,” Mr. Fawcett said.

The plan could cost the city at least $400,000, which would include buying and razing a house on Pearl Street for $85,000 and acquiring a 40-foot strip behind the Church Street houses for $225,000.

Local real estate developer Richard Newlove said he would sell the strip to the city and use the $225,000 to fix up the four rental houses on South Church Street. In the compromise plan Mr. Newlove and Bowling Green attorney Mike Marsh offered, they'd be willing to sell the houses to the Boom Town group, but the group said it was not created to buy property.

The Boom Town group offered a counterproposal to Mr. Marsh, Mr. Newlove, and the city last week, but Ms. Layden said it appears plans are moving forward without her group's participation in the talks.

She said members were dismayed on Friday to see that trees on the properties had been marked with orange spray paint, most likely indicating they are to be cut down. They also learned applications had been filled out at city hall to get demolition permits for the Pearl Street house and garage and for the garages of the Church Street houses. “I think it's pretty clear what they're going to do,” she said.