Commission tables discussion on a home for priests at St. John’s

Published 1:30 pm Sunday, February 27, 2022

Discussion of plans for a residential home on St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church’s lot has been put on the back burner by the Historic Preservation Commission due to lack of clarity on building designs.

St. John’s has plans to build a southern cottage-style home in the style of “The Bellamy” from Southern Living with several modifications on church property adjacent to the University in order to house parish priests. The structure is designed to be 1,859 square feet with 3 bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms.

The church previously received a variance from the lot coverage requirements of the Land Development Code at the January 2022 meeting of the Planning Commission that will allow construction of the building in the desired location. However, the church needs to obtain a Special Exception for the use of the proposed building as a residence from the Planning Commission, as the area is currently zoned for educational institutions.

The Planning Staff recommended approval of the plans with the conditions that the architects update the elevations for the structure’s sides and rear, update the roof plans and provide a window schedule showing simulated lighting and fixed elevation for fake windows.

Andrea Harmon, a representative of the construction company Samuels Construction, said the company initially planned for the fake windows noted in the design plans to be functional. Where a chimney is shown in the original house design but the Bellamy house plans will be modified and the chimney removed.

“With the fireplace gone, we’re going to put working windows there to go along with the rest of the house and they will all be alike,” said Harmon.

Beyond the issue of function, the commission had trouble with the look of the house which did not fit other residential buildings in the Historic South Lamar District.

“I think it’s a great looking house and it looks awfully country to be in that particular location … and by country I mean rural,” said Chairman Jack Garner. “It’s not as uptown as the construction in that neighborhood.”

Oxford’s Historic Preservationist Kate Kenwright said she addressed the issue of design and style with Harmon prior to the commission meeting. Kenwright noted that designs appeared more as a coastal Carolina style house rather than the Victorian, Colonial Revival and bungalow type residences found in Oxford’s historic districts.

“There were some specific elements that we recommended be altered so that the house could fit in more with new construction houses and historic houses in the district,” said Kenwright.

Samuel Construction’s representative said the goal for the house was to fit in and create a home that was not too extravagant.

“The reasoning behind this particular house plan is because they wanted to keep it so simple,” Harmon clarified to the commission board. “It’s trying to keep with the whole history of the neighborhood but also keeping what it is used for which is a parsonage for the Father Joe and whoever else comes later.”

The planning staff and commission recommended St. John and Samuels Construction to update the design and structure renderings with the fixed windows and elevations rather than examples so the commission could have a better understanding of the final product.

“It seems to me that there’s enough, not confusion, but lack of clarity for us and exactly what it is going to look like and the particular kind of elevation that we see,” said Garner. “It might be hard for us to really approve this at this point until we get a better feel of the changes. It’d be wise to see that in a rendering.”

To view the entire document, click the link below:

St. John the Evangelist Residential Design