Town of Surry historic designation delayed after county concerns

By: Michael Campbell, News Editor
July 27, 2017 | 12:48 p.m.

SURRY – Plans to officially designate part of the Town of Surry as part of an induction into the National Register of Historic Places have been placed on hold following questions from the county regarding procedure and the geographic area of the designation.

During their meeting this month, Surry supervisors confirmed the decision by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to delay a decision on the designation until an unknown time after the directive was given by the board to County Administrator Tyrone Franklin to request the delay until proper public notice could be given to those living in the county due to a portion of the area under consideration falling just outside the Town of Surry’s boundaries.

Earlier this year, the DHR sent a letter to Surry County Administrated dated April 19 and received May 1, it confirmed that the Commonwealth’s historic preservation office was looking at the town’s historic district for inclusion on both the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmark Register and a decision would be made during a meeting on June 15 in Mathews.

“The national and state registers are the official lists of places in Virginia recognized as having architectural, archaeological, or historical significance at a local, state or national level,” Survey and Register Director Division Director James Hare said in his correspondence with the county.

The Town of Surry Historic District comprises primarily of the intersection of Rolfe Highway and Colonial Trail East in the heart of the town and spans out from the intersection in the four cardinal directions to the town’s borders along Colonial Trail East, Rolfe Highway, and Oakwood Drive.

According to DHR, The Town of Surry Historic District is eligible for the National Register due to “the role it played as a county seat in the settlement of the region, and…for the range of 19th and 20th-century building styles reflective of the growth in the town.”

In a follow-up letter the day following June’s regular board of supervisors meeting, Franklin noted that “a portion of the Department’s proposed designation, specifically the Davis Town area, is located within the County of Surry and outside the Town limits.”

He then pointed to Virginia Code Section 10.0-2206.1, which stipulates that when DHR’s board proposes to designate a historic district, “the Department provide written notice of the proposal to the governing body of the jurisdiction in which the property is located…” and that DHR “…must hold a public hearing in the seat of government in which the proposed historic district is located and consult with a duly authorized representative of the local governing body to determine the time and place of such hearing.”

In the letter sent by DHR to the county in April, it did state that a “public information session” would be held at Surry Town Hall’s town meeting room on May 8 at 7 p.m., with the goal of the session being to “present and explain the nomination process and results of historic district designation, to hear public comment, and to answer questions,” with any comments going to the State Review Board, the Board of Historic Resources, and the agency director.

“Although the department is proposing a historic district that includes properties within the County of Surry, the Department did not hold a public hearing in the County, did not give notice to the County prior to setting the public hearing, and did not consult with the County about the time and place of the public hearing,” Franklin said in his letter to DHR representatives in Richmond.

Franklin’s letter went on to request a consultation between county administration and the department to allow for a time and place to be established for a public hearing to “allow for the attendance of those affected property owners in the county.”

At the June 15 meeting that would have seen the Town of Surry Historic District up for consideration for inclusion on the Virginia Landmarks Register and an eventual nomination for the National Register of Historic Places, 21 historical sites were added to the Commonwealth’s records.

The Town of Surry Historic District was among nine locations in DHR’s Eastern Region that were up for addition to the Virginia Landmarks Register.

In Franklin’s correspondence with the department, he noted that while notices may have been sent to property owners in the Town of Surry, it is the county’s position that they don’t believe “such notice obviates the statutory requirements to give the County that properties within the County are included in the proposed historic district, to consult with the County about the time and place of the hearing, and to hold a hearing at the County seat of government.”

“By scheduling another hearing in compliance with the statute, it would allow the County to separately notify its citizens of the hearing, which would give them more time to respond and understand the issues surrounding the historic designation,” Franklin closed.

Prior to the vote, during the May 8 meeting in the Town of Surry, DHR told affected property owners they can offer their support or objection to listing the district in either or both the VLP or NRHP by submitting a letter of support or comment to the agency, with those letters of objection being due a minimum of seven business days prior to their board meeting, which was June 15.

Since a decision was not made on the Town of Surry Historic District in June, it is unknown if public comment will remain open on this designation as the county works to establish a time for affected county residents to attend a public hearing with DHR officials within Surry.

As of their regular meeting in July, no date or location was provided for a possible public hearing on the Town of Surry Historic District.

According to the National Park Service, 19 different sites, be it buildings, plantations, and other locations, have been listed in the Register within Surry, including Bacon’s Castle, Chippokes Plantation, the Surry County Courthouse Complex, which includes the courthouse building itself, the old Clerk’s office, the Commissioner of Revenue’s office, a Confederate memorial, and the General District Court building, and Swann’s Point Plantation Site.

Copyright 2017 by Womack Publishing
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