MILTON — Some members of the city council and residents are concerned about the future of downtown Milton.
City leaders during a June 13 council meeting discussed inclusion of the Milton Downtown District on the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of endangered historic sites.
Councilwoman Sharon Holley said she recently received calls from constituents telling her that the downtown district appears on the endangered list. Holley said she spoke with Melissa Wyllie, the executive director of FTHP, to ask her for information about the packet that was submitted and why they decided to put Milton on the list.
“She said that they were a 501(c)(3) organization and their attorney had told her that they did not have to provide that information as far as any personal information as to who submitted it and why,” Holley said.
Councilwoman Peggi Smith said that this is nothing new; Milton has been on the list for years.
According to Planning Director Randy Jorgenson, the city’s position on the list implies there is something or somebody threatening the district.
Holley said she is worried the addition of Milton on the list will bring down property values, and wondered whether the decision to put Milton on the list should have been brought before the council. Holley said she later learned that a local 501(c)(3) organization applied for the downtown district to be on the endangered list — the Santa Rosa Historical Society.
Vernon Compton is a local businessman and spokesperson for the historical society. According to Compton, downtown’s inclusion on the “2017 Florida’s 11 to Save” list will help Milton.
“The mission of the Santa Rosa Historical Society is to preserve the history and the historic buildings and places in Santa Rosa County,” Compton said. “So the preservation of the Milton Historic District is, of course, in perfect alignment with our mission and that’s why we applied for it to be on the most endangered list, because of the threat posed by the four-laning that is currently being looked at by the Florida Department of Transportation.”
Compton said Milton’s inclusion on the list will help increase public awareness and hopefully cause a collaborative effort to identify a solution.
“It’s not in any way to embarrass the local area or anything; it’s purely aimed at how we can increase awareness, educate and work to find solutions to whatever is posing the threat,” Compton said.
According to Compton, Milton’s position on the endangered list will not negatively affect property values.
“Historic district designation brings with it a level of certainty to both business owners and homeowners that the district will be protected, so it actually in my mind encourages… investment and ownership because it has national significance, it’s recognized by the state, its recognized locally,” Compton said. “When you buy an area like that or invest … you know that there is a certain level of protection there.”
According to Jorgenson, it is a possibility that Milton’s inclusion on the endangered list will bring property values down; however, it is also a possibility that it will strengthen property values.
“At this point in time, [FDOT hasn't] determined what their solution will be," Jorgenson said. "Their solution may very well be that widening Highway 90 is the best approach to problem-solving — but that is only after they go through an extremely involved analysis of all of the potential answers to that question.”