New home’s construction proposed in historic district

A five-member county board is set to decide tonight if a new home can be built amid structures that date back to before the Civil War.

Rowland and Nancy Davidson own 1.5 acres on Concord Road within the Concord Covered Bridge Historic District, which includes a number of structures built in the mid-1800s when milling communities developed along Nickajack Creek. The Davidsons are asking the Cobb County Historic Preservation Commission to grant them a certificate of appropriateness, which would allow them to build a proposed four bedroom, three bathroom house with a three-car garage on their land.

“Any property that’s on the Cobb Register of Historic Places or within a designated local historic district has to get what’s called a certificate of appropriateness for any material changes to the property, whether it’s building a new structure, relocating an existing structure, even putting up a fence,” said Jason Gaines, planning division manager for Cobb County.

Rowland Davidson did not return a voicemail message from the MDJ seeking comment from this story, but in his application to the commission it said that the home, which he has spent the last 10 years designing and planning after purchasing the property in 2006, would be built using natural stone walls to anchor the floor plan to reference the Concord Woolen Mill ruins, one of the sites along Nickajack Creek. Other natural materials, such as wood beams, posts and siding, are also planned for the home.

But among those opposing Davidson’s proposed home plans is Philip Ivester, a Concord Road resident and member of the Friends of the Concord Covered Bridge Historic District, a nonprofit aimed at preserving the area. He argues that the planned modern-style home would not maintain the aesthetic of the district.

“This district has several antebellum structures on it, five I think are on the National Register of Historic Places, and we’ve been trying to get it listed as a national historic district, which is another designation that would have even more protections … The best way to describe it is to just get somebody to drive through it — it’s like stepping back in time,” Ivester said. “(This home) just destroys the nature that we’ve worked to protect.”

Gaines said the Concord Covered Bridge Historic District, unlike the Clarkdale Mill Village Historic District along the west side of Austell-Powder Springs Road in southwest Cobb, does not have specific design guidelines specific to the district. The Concord district, he says, only has to meet standards established by the U.S. Department of Interior. “It doesn’t prevent someone from building something that is modern in appearance, and that’s because this district does not have specific design guidelines associated with it, like Clarkdale does,” Gaines said.

Ivester said the proposed home would be built a stone’s throw away from several structures on the National Register of Historic Places — it would be adjacent to the Rock House, 500 feet from the Grist Mill and 625 feet from the Miller’s House. It would also be less than 400 feet from the Covered Bridge, which was built in the mid-1800s.

Cobb County is spending an estimated $802,959 in Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds to repair the bridge. It is expected to be reopened to traffic this month.

“That’s a lot of money to put into a wood structure solely to maintain the historic appearance of the area to keep it consistent with the way its looked for the past 150 years,” Ivester said. “It doesn’t make sense to me to spend $800,000 on a bridge and build this structure a couple hundred feet away from it within view of the bridge.”

The Cobb County Historic Preservation Commission is set to weigh in on the matter at its 6:30 p.m. meeting today at the Cobb Government Building.

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