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Historic Preservation Commission approved

AHOSKIE – The committee will become a commission.

At its meeting here last week, members of the Ahoskie Town Council voted 5-0 to establish a Historic Preservation Commission. Currently, the town has a Historic Preservation Committee.

The difference, as explained by Ahoskie Town Manager Tony Hammond, is that a commission has more enforcement power than a committee.

“The commission would be a legal, binding board appointed by the town council,” Hammond noted. “Their authority would be along the same lines as our Planning Board and Board of Adjustments. They would control what goes on within Ahoskie’s historic districts.”

The measure was brought before the council in conjunction with an update from CADA (Choanoke Area Development Association) Director Sallie Surface in regards to the ongoing Ahoskie High School Renovation Project. Surface cited a similar project in Woodland several years ago where a preservation commission was established by that Northampton County town in regards to a project to transform the old Woodland-Olney School into senior citizen apartments, much like what is currently being done with the old Ahoskie High School.

“With the Woodland Historic Preservation Commission, we needed their guidance on just one occasion,” Surface recalled. “The old windows at the school needed replacing and we needed them to help us find the replacement windows that best matched the old ones.”

However, according to Ahoskie officials, there is the need for an authoritative board in town to oversee the recent trend to preserve and restore Ahoskie’s rich history.

“The Historic Preservation Commission sets the guidelines on what can be undertaken on any and all historic properties,” Hammond said. “Once those guidelines are established, the commission becomes the enforcement authority.”

In discussing the idea, town council members agreed the commission should consist of at least five members.

Councilwoman Elaine Myers made the motion to approve establishing a Historic Preservation Commission, one which passed unanimously.

In a related matter, town council members approved John Fritz as the commission chairman. Fritz, who has led the charge for preserving Ahoskie’s past, currently chairs the Ahoskie Historic Preservation Committee.

Other members of the newly formed commission will be appointed at a later date.