Final downtown design rules expected soon

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – Downtown design guidelines and standards for the city of Plymouth could be codified by the end of the year.

The Redevelopment Authority set that goal at their meeting Thursday, while also noting that adopting the guidelines will only be the first step.

The guidelines must be adopted by the RDA, the Plan Commission and the City Council before they can take effect, City Administrator Brian Yerges pointed out. It would require a public hearing before the City Council prior to final adoption.

The guidelines would have to be met by any business applying to the RDA for a sign or facade grant and RDA members discussed whether they should make design assistance available to those interested in the grants.

RDA Chair Lee Gentine noted that when the Plymouth Advancement Association was in charge of the grant program, it included an architect – Jim Hanlon – and a historic preservationist – Alan Pape – who offered such advise at no charge. He wondered if the service could still provided without a charge.

“There is some public relations value to that service,” RDA member David Williams commented. “I do like the idea of providing the service, but I would like to put a dollar limit on that. We don’t have unlimited funds yet. We don’t have a chest of gold doubloons we can hand out.”

RDA member and downtown business owner Carole O’Malley pointed out that amount of the facade grant – usually $1,000 – would probably not be enough to induce changes in a planned major facade project. “That’s definitely not a carrot to entice someone to go along with somebody else’s design,” she commented.

“There are some things in the downtown design guidelines that, if it’s adopted by ordinance, you can’t do,” Yerges pointed out.

He said the RDA would have to set up a committee to oversee implementation of the guidelines and recommended that all the mem- bers of the committee would have to understand and be familiar with the guidelines.

RDA members also said they would like a chance to meet with downtown business and property owners in the near future to discuss what the RDA can do for them.

“I think it’s important to get the word out that we are in existence and are establishing some programs that can help them expand in the future,” Williams said.

RDA member Jackie Jarvis added, “We can learn from the business owners what would they like us to do, what they would like us to make our priorities as a committee.”

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