Historic district make-up survives challenge

Genoa as it appeared in the mid-1970s when it became a historic district.

Genoa as it appeared in the mid-1970s when it became a historic district.

Two of Nevada’s first settlement’s elders took opposite sides of the Genoa Historic Commission District debate last week.

Bill Brooks, who grew up in Nevada’s oldest settlement, has argued against the historic district for decades.

Marian Vassar has served on the historic commission for the better part of the 21st Century. She is currently the commission’s vice chairwoman.

“Why are you making a decision at this time with no input from the historic district,” Vassar asked last week.

In August, county commissioners approved a new ordinance for the historic district commission that encoded the “Little Brown Book,” which the historic commission has traditionally followed when making its determinations.

Brooks, who lives in the district, argues the county could appoint members from anywhere to the board, and that it wasn’t representative of town residents. He also points out that the historic district doesn’t apply to residential structures.

During the debate on the new ordinance, commissioners raised a glimmer of hope that they would be amenable to changing the make-up of the commission to include the elected town board in some way.

The town responded, with Brooks' encouragement, by sending a letter to county commissioners seeking a change.

Town Chairman Gordon Pasley told commissioners that change would be up to them to determine. After hearing from both Vassar and Brooks, commissioners decided they wanted town residents to work that out.

Combining the two boards would require the ordinance to be revised again.

The Genoa historic district is the only one in Douglas County. It follows the boundaries of the 1874 Hawkins Map and was officially recognized by the National Registry of Historic Places on April 16, 1975, according to the National Park Service.

Vassar said the town has its own particular architecture because it was built over the course of a half-century.

Historic structures in town range from the Walker House built in 1854 to the last years of the 19th Century, according to the 1975 map included in the original registry listing.

“Historic districts are set up by statute to protect special places,” County Manager Jenifer Davidson. “This district qualifies us for so many things.”

Commissioner Sharla Hales said she would prefer if the two boards came to a consensus.

“I like the idea these decisions are made in the location of the people living there,” she said.


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