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The town of Summerville recently adopted written guidelines for development in its historic district. File/Brad Nettles/Staff

SUMMERVILLE — The town has written development guidelines for its historic district for the first time. 

Previously, its Board of Architectural Review would review applications for building or developing in the historic district on a case-by-case basis without a cohesive standard for what to approve and deny. 

Now, thanks to a grant from the Department of Interior and National Park Service, there are guidelines in place with the goal of keeping intact the integrity of the historic district, which has roots dating back to the early 1800s.

"It helps both (the town) and applicants to understand what's expected and give them some direction when coming up with plans," said Town Planner Jessi Shuler.

"It's also for the board to keep them consistent and make sure they're not doing things that would harm the integrity of the district either," he said.

The historic district encompasses 700 buildings on just over 600 acres of land.

As part of the process to put guidelines to paper, the town worked with the S.C. Department of Archives and History, which administered the $15,000 federal grant. Together, they were able to gather restrictions in line with federal efforts to preserve historic areas and keep in mind the specific needs of the town's historic district. 

"What this did was expound on (DOI guidelines) to give citizens and developers a better idea of how to propose changes," Shuler said.

"What it also does is provide the Board of Architectural Review with something to make sure they're consistent and maintain that they follow these, as well, when they're reviewing projects."

Ultimately, there aren't many changes in the spelled-out guidelines from what the BAR had been using as its basis for years. The standards include general guidelines for all buildings in the district, universal guidelines for all buildings in the district, and specific guidelines for both residential and commercial properties, as well as definitions for maintaining a building's integrity.

"They're guidelines," Shuler said. "So just because someone doesn't meet them exactly doesn't mean the BAR can't approve a project." 

The Town of Summerville is a Certified Local Government through the National Park Service, which is what made it eligible for the grant. The project cost $30,000, half of which was reimbursed through the grant, Shuler said. 

Being a CLG also means it works closely with the S.C. State Historic Preservation Office, which Shuler said had recommended for a while that the town adopt a set of guidelines for development in the historic district. 

"It's letting folks know up front what to expect and what direction they need to go rather than wasting their time trying to present something that may never get approved," she said. "We jumped at the chance to get that done."

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Contact Conner Mitchell at 843-958-1336. Follow him on Twitter at @ConnerMitchell0.

Conner Mitchell is a Kansas native covering Berkeley and Dorchester counties for The Post and Courier. He is a graduate of the University of Kansas and has worked previously at the Kansas City Star, Lawrence Journal-World and Palm Beach Post.