Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Columbia's Waverly neighborhood could soon see tougher restrictions when it comes to development, in both commercial and residential areas.
The goal is to help protect the character of the historic African American community that's been around since the early 1900's.
"The Waverly Historic neighborhood wants its remaining structures to retain their essential physical and visual features,” says Frank Houston, president of the Waverly Historic Neighborhood Association.
Houston says there needs to be stronger guidelines when it comes to development in the area.
“We’re trying to preserve the past for a future generation.”
On Thursday afternoon Houston along with nearly a dozen residents came out to the Columbia Design/Development Review Commission to make their request.
Richland County Council representative Seth Rose also spoke, for the people he represents in his district.
"If it's in the best interest of Waverly, it's in the best interest of the City of Columbia,” says Rose. “We are fearful that if it's not passed here today then it could ultimately be the death bell of this historic neighborhood."
The proposed guidelines would combine the two areas in the district. Area A is residential and Area B is commercial. Currently Area A has stronger restrictions when it comes to development, but the neighborhood is hoping create the same protections for the entire area.
Meaning that future actions like new construction, demolition, the creation of parking lots and changes to the exteriors of building would have to come to the commission and to city council for review.
"The architectural features of these homes are what’s important to this community,” says Houston. “These are the style homes that were chosen by those in the early 1900's and late 1800's that made Waverly what it is today."
The tearing down of George Elmore’s store in 2012 sparked the conversation of stronger protections.
What was once a store owned by a civil rights activist, is now a vacant lot, where the historic marker still stands. Houston hopes new restrictions will prevent future demolitions to historic sites.
However, commercial property owners could have their hands tied.
Ray Bryson owns property on the corner of Taylor St and Millwood Ave.
"Sixty percent of this land area is commercial and what we experienced was that the residential side is able to control our property, which is going too far."
With stronger restrictions Bryson won't be able to develop his property. At this point, he has no choice but to put it up for sale.
Houston says he doesn't want to discourage change or development; he just wants what's new to resemble the old.
"It is an important piece of Columbia,” says Houston.
The DDRC is recommending approval of this protection request.
Columbia city council is expected to give the final vote in their upcoming meeting.
Click here for the complete protection proposal.