HOMER — The Banks County Commission has approved the creation of a historic preservation commission.
The ordinance, requested by Rick Billingslea of Hebron Baptist Church and Glen Diemond, passed 3-2, with Commissioner Sammy Reece and Commissioner Charles Turk voting against it.
After the meeting, Commission Chairman Jimmy Hooper said he doesn’t believe the dissenting votes occurred because those commissioners are opposed to creating such a group, but rather may be due to qualifications for members of the group and how the ordinance would be implemented.
“I think the split vote came not because of anything negative,” Hooper said. “I think everybody is on the same page that we need a commission. It’s just the extent of what authority we might want them to have.”
In voting no, both Reece and Turk said they never received a yellow handout Hooper said he placed on all commissioners’ desks containing the names of suggested historic preservation commission members and their affiliations.
Prior to the vote, Turk took issue with some of the names proposed to serve on the HPC, saying all prospective members should own property in Banks County before he would support them.
Billingslea said he doesn’t own property in Banks County but is pastor of historic Hebron Presbyterian Church.
“I didn’t ask that,” Turk said. “These people need to own property in Banks County for me to support it.”
Billingslea said the county needs the HPC to help owners of historic property be able to fund upkeep and other needs.
“It’s tough for a small church on a double dead-end road to live,” Billingslea said. “As we move further to try to save Hebron, your net result of that is Hebron may close and go away, which means the Presbytery gets the property — which means they’ll turn around and sell it. And we would rather not see that happen.”
Hebron Presbyterian Church was organized in 1796 by Pennsylvania native the Rev. John Newton. The current sanctuary was constructed in 1884. It remains one of the two oldest churches in Banks County.
“Painting in broad strokes, it gives the county — through this [new] commission — the opportunity to apply for federal funds, state funds that we may not necessarily have gotten if we would not have had this commission,” Hooper said. “We have several historic places in Banks County. The property landowners will have the right to be considered by the commission as they write grants. I’m just thinking about right off the top of my head Fort Hollingsworth, Hebron Church, Banks County Courthouse, the old jail. We have lots of places that could use some funds for moving down the road. And they would not be taxpayers’ dollars.”
Hooper said the county is just in the first stages of the creation of the historic preservation commission, and stressed all actions must be approved by the county commission.