Hinton is a now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t kind of town.
Main Street is a hilly, winding, stone’s throw stretch of Route VV that on the east side boasts a Texaco gas station and a few aging homes built on narrow lots. The west side of the street is home to unassuming, mustard-yellow Hinton Radio and TV — a dilapidated, wooden building once used as a feed-and-grain store; the white, house-like Rocky Fork Primitive Baptist Church; and a crowded antebellum cemetery.
But this tiny town north of Columbia might be the type of community that wants to save its way of life.
Delores Faup, who works at the TV shop, has been a resident of Hinton for more than 30 years. It’s a town where all the neighbors know each other and little kids can have ponies. She said she would leave the village “just like it is.”
County officials hope to enable Faup, her neighbors and other residents of unincorporated Boone County to preserve the rural environment of their neighborhoods by using a new character preservation overlay district. Proposed as part of an overhaul of county zoning codes and still subject to final approval, such districts would allow residents to establish, preserve and protect the historic, cultural or environmental characteristics of their areas.
For Hinton, an overlay might mean protecting roadside lakes; manicured, pre-Civil War gravestones; and the small church established in 1821 that has curtains in the windows and a gravel drive but no distinguishable parking lot.
“I’d preserve anything that’s green and farmland,” Faup said.
Agricultural activities would remain untouched and commercial development would have to comply with overlay standards. The district would also become a factor in determining future land use and development.
The proposed districts evolved from requests by citizens to designate Roby Farm and Rock Quarry roads as scenic, Thaddeus Yonke, county planner, said. The Planning and Zoning Commission then expanded the idea to protect entire areas.
Interested residents would be responsible for bringing recommendations to the planning and zoning commission. A committee of three to five residents would work with planners to draft development standards that could include setback requirements, minimum lot sizes and architectural requirements, for example. Regulation of more trivial aesthetic qualities such as paint color is “further than the county normally goes,” but it could be done, Yonke said.
Preserving that hometown feel
At a recent work session, the Boone County Commission decided that 75 percent of frontage owners and 67 percent of property owners would have to agree on a preservation district’s standards in order for the district to be approved.
“We don’t want to spend a lot of time unless there is significant buy-in from people who are affected,” Yonke said.
Developers would also benefit, Yonke said, because they wouldn’t waste time with proposals that don’t match the neighbors’ vision.
Though county officials don’t know how many neighborhoods might apply for the designation, Yonke said that now “there is a mechanism in place.”
As for preserving Hinton’s character, Faup didn’t seem worried.
“It doesn’t change a lot around here,” she said.