Council approves downtown construction guidelines

Jefferson Herald staff

In advance of an impending application for a Community Development Block Grant to spruce up building facades downtown, the Jefferson city council last week unanimously approved a set of non-binding downtown building design guidelines.

Peg Raney, Jefferson Matters: Main Street program director, said the guidelines are part of an effort to help business owners stay consistent with historical preservation standards and are really suggestions for do’s and don’ts when renovating or remodeling a business.

Jefferson building inspector Nick Sorensen said he reviewed the guidelines to make sure they don’t contradict with existing building codes.

“It’s nice because while it’s non-binding, it opens up a dialog a little bit between myself and property owners,” Sorensen said. “Maintenance can be tricky and it’s nice to make sure everything is in order.”

Because of a suggestion by Main Street: Iowa, a design committee was assembled by Jefferson Matters: Main Street to produce guidelines for business owners about four years ago. Those suggestions were recently updated at the suggestion of City Administrator Mike Palmer.

The guidelines are only applicable to buildings located downtown.

Highlights include encouraging the maintenance of or restoring the traditional facade, storefront configurations and architectural design, while discouraging adding elements not original to the building, changing roof design and the use of vinyl or metal screen/storm doors.

Raney said it’s really about educating business owners.

“We’re trying to emphasize the educational aspect of understanding how (renovations) make our Main Street district become more involved in historic preservation,” Raney said. “That’s been a goal of Main Street, and the city of Jefferson is onboard with that.”

While the suggestions are non-binding, Raney said now was a good time to establish the guidelines because so many downtown businesses will be affected if the CDBG is approved by the state. She said the architects — Franks Design Group — have already been meeting with individual business owners to review what can or should be done to their properties.

Raney said interest in the grant project has been high and she believes the involvement of about 20 businesses would be ideal. The application is due Feb. 5.

“In order to be a part of the application, we‘ve sent business owners a letter of commitment they need to sign (and return) with $500 to be held in escrow to save their spot,” Raney said. “This is a requirement of the application because they need to know who is interested in being involved.”

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