Thursday, August 13, 2009

Local Historic District Study Committee Moves Forward

The Amherst Local Historic District Study Committee is now beginning its work in earnest. Below is the backgrounder from the Springfield Republican. Here, first, an update on our third meeting, which took place last week, on 4 August.

We elected as officers:
  1. Chair, Jerry Guidera (Mr. Guidera is a property owner in the Dickinson District: Director, Center for Cross-Cultural Study; co-owner, Hills House LLC)
  2. Vice Chair, Jim Wald
  3. Clerk/Secretary, Wendy Kohler
After reviewing the nine existing National Historic Register Districts (NHRs) and the general array of historic resources described in the Amherst Preservation Plan, we concluded that the Dickinson NHR, as a well-defined, central area containing the town's best-known historic sites, should indeed be the focus of our efforts. This does not mean that the LHR and NHR would be identical, and rather, only that the latter would serve as our point of departure. The two categories have different functions, and that of the LHD is to protect as well as to designate, so the issue comes down to what resources would most benefit from regulation.

As it happens, Town Meeting this spring approved Community Preservation Act funding for expansion of the Dickinson District and creation of a new nearby Depot district (the Dickinsons were instrumental in bringing the railroad to Amherst). That work will generate the inventories and other information that will help us to determine which resources exist and where the boundaries of an LHR should lie.

As we begin the work to determine the boundaries of the district, we will also consult with other communities regarding their experience and procedures.

* * *

Here, Diane Lederman's report from the Republican, with a reader comment and my response appended:

Amherst weighs creating its first historic district

Posted by lrivais August 03, 2009 14:03PM


AMHERST - A nascent group investigating the creation of a local historic district or districts is holding its third meeting Tuesday.

The meeting of the Local Historic District Study Committee is at 5 p.m. in Town Hall.

Members are trying to "educate themselves about the nature of historic districts .¤.¤. the successes, the pitfalls," said James J. Wald, a member of the group and chairman of the town's Historical Commission.

Wald first brought the proposal to create such a district to the Select Board last fall. Creating a district, which protects the town's historic buildings and landscapes, has been on the commission's priority list for some time.

He said Thursday he had hoped the committee would have been further along and have something in place this year for the town's 250th Anniversary Celebration. But it took longer than expected for a committee to be appointed and work to begin.

In its early meetings, the committee has talked about perhaps creating the area around the Emily Dickinson Homestead as a historic district.

A town can have as few as one or as many districts as it wants. He said the whole island of Nantucket is such a district. Northampton, Belchertown and Granby have local historic districts, he said.

The "desire is to protect our resources better," Wald said, adding that creating a district "gives us the tools to do that."

People "get scared (of regulations) .¤.¤. every community decides what it wants and how to protect it," he added.

There are many procedures the committee has to follow, including holding public hearings.

"The measure and the process are intended to reflect community desires rather than to impose something on them from outside or above," Wald said. He said communities decide exactly "how much or little they wish to protect and how."

The committee is comprised of a real estate agent and an architect, as well as residents and town officials. Ultimately, Town Meeting decides in a two-thirds vote to create such a district, he said.

Categories: Amherst

youareresp says...

Historic homes are beautiful, if the homeowner likes having to paint it constantly, have windows that are a pain to clean because the new tilt in windows are not allowed. Hopefully you already have regular storms, some don't, they have those big windows that are hooked on for storms. I just love the fireplaces, you'll need it because they are the biggest culprits for inefficient heating.

Wouldn't it be nice to have sliders and a deck, too bad you can't in historic homes. You could probably have awnings, you'll need it to block the sun, most historic houses don't have attic fans. Air conditioners are a great money pit with these homes. Don't forget, no siding, no larger garage than what you have, no nice tilt in windows etc.

Posted on 08/03/09 at 4:32PM
CitizenWald says...

I am grateful to youareresp for posting these statements or concerns because they epitomize the most common misconceptions and needless fears regarding historic preservation in general and local historic districts in particular.

1) Local historic districts can protect modern architecture, historic ethnic neighborhoods, and other aspects of community character--not just, say, Colonial structures or Victorian mansions. Each town decides for itself.

2) Local historic districts do not prevent improvements or additions to homes. Rather, they simply require review of proposed major changes to architectural features visible from the public way.

3) Local historic district regulations do not pertain to interior features. So, do what you wish with that fireplace, and feel free to put in that attic fan if you need it.

4) Almost all local historic district regulations specifically exempt from review the features mentioned in the preceding comment: paint colors, air conditioning units, storm doors, storm windows.

So, if you don't want to live in a historic house, don't buy one. But regardless of where you live, relax and don't worry: local historic districts exist simply in order to help towns and neighborhoods preserve the character that they already have and value.

Jim Wald
Chair, Amherst Historical Commission

No comments: