Preservation Commission is doing its job

Published 7:00 am Saturday, August 13, 2022

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We need to cut the city’s Preservation Commission some slack.

The Preservation Commission is being criticized for taking its time in making a decision about or approving guidelines for murals in our historic district. Well, it should.

The members have a very important job to do here — a job that, if they make the wrong move, could cost our community millions and millions of dollars.

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This city’s driving industry is tourism. People come here to see our historic buildings and to hear our city’s story, good and bad. Don’t lose sight of the fact that few people wander upon Natchez without a plan. Unlike cities along our nation’s interstate system, those who visit Natchez seek it out. Few pass by and decide to stop on a whim.

When they visit, those tourists spend their dollars, which feed every business here. Restaurants feed tourists, and spend those dollars they earn buying supplies, maintaining their facilities, paying their workers. You see where this leads.

The commission is charged with maintaining the historic feel of the district.

And remember, the Preservation Commission is only concerned with the area within our historic district and with the areas immediately surrounding our city’s historic landmark homes. Think Longwood, Monmouth, Hope Farm and others.

Much is at stake. For instance, when a mural or other image is painted on a building on the National Historic Register, that building loses its historic register status, as well as any tax breaks that come with owning and maintaining a historic property.

Others, like the Downtown Natchez Alliance, have asked to meet with the city, planning commission and preservation commission to discuss ways to include murals in the downtown area that would not interfere with its historic feel. We hope those meetings happen.

In the end, the final say about murals downtown belongs to the Board of Aldermen. The Preservation Commission is simply doing its job, and we applaud the members for it.

When a group of women in the late 1920s and early 1930s fought tooth and nail to protect our historic homes and buildings, they laid the foundation for historic tourism that continues to drive our local economy nearly a century later. Protecting the historic district of our town is of utmost importance for our city’s economy, today and for the future.

Adding murals to these historic buildings might seem charming or trendy at the moment, but the decision on how – or if – to allow the murals needs to be considered in the scope of history and with an eye toward the impact on our community’s future.

It’s not an easy task, and we support the Preservation Commission in taking a pause to thoughtfully consider this issue.