A historic future

Hartsburg tries to grow without changing
Thursday, January 29, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:44 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

There’s been talk for several years in Hartsburg about creating land-use guidelines for the small town in the Missouri River bottoms.

“Things don’t happen very fast in Hartsburg,” said Jeff Kays, a lawyer who lives in the town of just more than 100 people.

When a fire destroyed a home last year next to the Peace United Church, Kays said, residents worried about what might be built in its place — or elsewhere in town. “I’ve had crazy things said to me. I’ve even heard rumors of a strip club,” he said.

Kays is one of eight residents appointed to Hartsburg’s new Planning and Zoning Commission, which has unanimously endorsed a Master Plan that would essentially split the town into historic and general districts. The plan is set to go before the town council on Wednesday and could be approved at the following meeting in early March.

“Our purpose is to preserve our small but attractive town,” Hartsburg Mayor Nancy Grant said. “Our town is very unique and has a historic flavor that attracts tourists and new residents. We have Victorian-style homes and buildings that date as far back as 1905. We want to grow, but in a planned fashion.”

The Katy Trail and the fall Pumpkin Festival are major tourist attractions in the town that was settled in the mid-1800s.

Residents in the proposed historic district would be required to follow a set of guidelines for new construction, alterations and repairs outlined in the Master Plan. The guidelines govern height, proportion of windows and doors, roof shape, landscaping and architectural details. “The basic concept is to look around you and make sure your property fits in,” Kays said.

The plan was modeled after a similar plan adopted by Rocheport, another river town in Boone County.

Any kind of construction in the historic district must be approved by the planning commission. Mobile homes will be allowed in the historic district, but their appearance must be approved. They must have a foundation, no axles showing and must be 25 feet from the road.

“Our purpose isn’t to keep mobile homes out,” Kays said. “People don’t realize that existing properties in both districts are grandfathered in.”

Realtor Ann Mericle, a previous mayor, said that mobile homes “are a great way to get started, but Hartsburg won’t survive if we are simply a community of mobile homes.”

Hartsburg resident Cecil Reifsteck lives in a mobile home and says he sees no need or benefit from the plan.

“We’re not growing because we’re in a flood plain,” he said. “There are only about three historic buildings to preserve, and they are not original. Most of them were destroyed by the flood of ’93.”

Residents were encouraged to come to the planning and zoning meetings before the plan was presented to the council.

“I was disappointed that out of 108 people, only one showed up,” Kays said. “People are complaining without being informed.”

In the general district, one mobile home per lot will be allowed. Kays said that the commission is concerned with the uses more than the appearance.

Other residents expressed concerns beyond the issue of mobile homes. Commission member and farmer Jo Hackman requested that the plan protect the rights of farmers to build in the general district.

“At first the plan seemed to restrict farmers and business owners, but I see the obvious need to preserve our town,” Hackman said.

Commission member Brian Bauer said he is well aware that the committee should be flexible. “We don’t want to people to fear the commission,” Bauer said.

Resident and owner of the historic Cycle Depot, Mark Allchorn, supports efforts to preserve the town’s character. “Every town, no matter the size, faces planning and zoning,” Allchorn said. “I think the intent is to keep the town special. I mean just look at it, it is a picture-box community.”

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