AUGUSTA — Some city councilors and Mayor David Rollins said Thursday the city should modify a controversial proposal to create a large new historic district so it applies, for now, only to the downtown, excluding west side residential neighborhoods from it until residents’ concerns can be addressed.

“I think we could separate it and move forward with the downtown district and establish the ordinance (downtown) as we finish up the work to be done to satisfy the concerns of the neighborhood,” Rollins said. “The concept is there is less work to be done in that part of the district, and that is the part that could most benefit.”

At least three councilors — Ward 3 Councilor Patrick Paradis, Ward 2 Councilor Darek Grant and At-Large Councilor Cecil Munson — expressed support for separating the two parts of the city and seeking to put the historic district ordinance in place downtown, but not the residential areas of the west side where it originally was proposed to be instituted. However, at least two — Ward 1 Councilor Linda Conti and At-Large Councilor Dale McCormick — said they did not favor doing that.

McCormick said separating the two areas of the city would only make the approval process even longer.

Conti said if both areas of the city aren’t done together, the rules wouldn’t be as strong or effective, and she was concerned the city could end up with two different sets of standards.

Rollins said a new, professionally done survey of the west side neighborhood should be conducted to determine which properties would be considered “contributing” or “noncontributing” under the rules of the ordinance. Contributing properties would face more strict preservation requirements when renovation occurs. He said the city should pay for the survey, which could take some time to complete.

City councilors expressed concerns about some of the modifications state historic preservation officials recommend be made to the proposed new historic district ordinance.

At least one councilor had hard questions about the cost, to the city and property owners within the district, of adopting and complying with the ordinance, which would create a new historic district in a large swath of the city on the west side of the Kennebec River, including the downtown.

The controversial proposal to create a historic district encompassing much of the city’s west side was back before city councilors for discussion Thursday following a review of the proposed ordinance by state historic preservation officials.

Paradis expressed concern about some of the language state historic preservation officials recommended adding. Specifically, a paragraph stating “Alterations that have no historic basis or create a false sense of historic development, such as adding conjectural features or elements from other properties, shall be discouraged.”

Paradis worried that could discourage some home or business owners from making efforts to make their newer buildings fit in better with older buildings in their neighborhoods.

“Why wouldn’t we encourage businesses or residents, if they’re going to do an expansion, to sort of complement the historic area they’re in?” he said. “That paragraph discourages people from renovating a home that may stick out like a sore thumb, to fit in better with the neighborhood.”

Development Director Matt Nazar said the paragraph, based upon federal historic preservation standards, is meant to discourage property owners from trying to make buildings built in one time period look like buildings built in an earlier time period by mimicking their style. He said that is not, generally, the goal of historic preservation rules.

Rollins said councilors aren’t expert enough to determine what, specifically, that paragraph was meant to require, and they should seek more information before proceeding.

At-Large Councilor Jeffrey Bilodeau, who previously has criticized the proposed ordinance’s requirements that homeowners within the district get home exterior renovation approved by a new historic review board before doing the work, raised concerns about the potential cost of the ordinance — both to the city, in adopting and enforcing it; and to property owners, in complying with its standards.

He said it could cost the city money to comply with its own ordinance, because sidewalks in the district would be required to be maintained to certain standards.

Bilodeau also said he wants to see the range of fees that could be charged to building owners in the district if they wish to renovate.

Nazar said fees aren’t specified in the proposal and he was looking for direction from city councilors in determining what fees for permits should be.

Some residents of the area to be included within the proposed new district have expressed concerns about having to go through an additional layer of approval to do work on the exteriors of homes and other buildings in the district. That, they said, could add time and cost to home renovation and repair.

Councilors had several meetings about the proposal last year but have yet to vote on whether to adopt the ordinance and create a locally designated historic district that would encompass two existing designated National Historic Districts surrounding Winthrop and Crosby streets.

The council process has been on hold since fall while the ordinance was reviewed by staff at the Maine Historic Preservation Commission.

The proposed new historic district would include the downtown Water Street area north until just beyond Bond Street, extend as far south as a small portion of Western Avenue at Memorial Circle, and include homes and other buildings along parts of State, Green, Bridge, Chapel, Melville, South Chestnut, North Chestnut, Spring, Winter and Summer streets.

The proposed ordinance is on the city’s website, www.augustamaine.gov.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

k[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj