By Ashley Rader
Elizabethton’s City Council stepped back from a plan to expand the powers of the Historic Zoning Commission after members questioned the requirements and even the need for the change – and after a former city manager raised the specter of the Civil War.
Council considered second reading on Thursday night of the ordinance that would have allowed the commission to name specific individual sites within the city as historic landmarks. Director of Planning Jon Hartman told council members that the commission had held the long-term goal of adding the historic landmark determination powers to their abilities to be able to protect the Blue Grays’ field at Douglas Park and Green Hill Cemetery, which had recently been added to the discussions.
The Blue Grays’ field, which is city owned, was the home to Elizabethton’s black semiprofessional baseball team during the time of the segregated South. Green Hill Cemetery hosts some of the oldest graves in the city, including the founder of Elizabethton Samuel Tipton, Revolutionary War soldiers and Civil War soldiers.
It is unclear who holds the deed to the cemetery.
Former City Manager Fred Edens called on the council to reject the expanded powers, citing concerns from a group of citizens that the ordinance amendment was a way to assert more control over the Green Hill Cemetery to remove further displays in support of the Confederate soldiers buried there.