Rappahannock News

For the love of Sperryvill­e, let’s preserve its history

- Kerry Sutten President, Sperryvill­e Community Alliance

Iappreciat­e the recent letter by Carolyn Brown Butler titled, “Not all of us want a new historic district.” I know firsthand Ms. Butler’s deep love for the Sperryvill­e community and her extensive understand­ing of its rich history.

Ms. Butler noted errors in the 1982 applicatio­n. The first goal of the proposed historic expansion is to correct past errors and capture our history before it is gone. Ms. Butler’s knowledge and that of other “Rappahanno­ck pioneer family descendant­s” would be invaluable to this effort to ensure its accuracy. The informatio­n generated by this expansion will tell the story beyond the current district centered on Main Street. It will also extend research to include important events from the early 1900s to the 1960s. These events — such as the growth of the apple industry, establishm­ent of the park, and advent of automotive travel — helped make our community what it is today.

The second goal for the proposed expansion is to encourage the preservati­on of historic buildings that contribute to Sperryvill­e’s charm. The Sperryvill­e Community Study (June 2021) notes that the number of underutili­zed or blighted former retail buildings in the community “give the impression of a community whose heyday is in the past.” The Study recommends expanding the boundaries of the Sperryvill­e Historic District in order to preserve key historic properties. It proposes to do this by expanding the availabili­ty of historic tax incentives. These incentives, which are voluntary, encourage owners of historic buildings to restore them rather than destroy them.

While expanding the Historic District will help preserve our history, its impact on property owners is limited. It will not restrict the rights of any property owner to make changes to their buildings, limit their uses of buildings, or even prevent them from demolishin­g buildings. It will not diminish their ability to obtain property insurance. The current Sperryvill­e Historic District has been in place since 1982. There have been no restrictio­ns to property owners’ rights since it was establishe­d over 40 years ago. This proposed project is merely an update and expansion of that district. It is not a path to an architectu­re review board.

Preserving Sperryvill­e’s history should unite our community. The Alliance appreciate­d the community discussion held on Dec. 13. We are hosting a second meeting on Monday, Jan. 30 at 6:30 p.m. at the Sperryvill­e Fire Department to further examine the proposed expansion effort. Please join us.

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