Events

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Stop random neighborhood violence: regulate pugilism through historic preservation!

Do good historic preservation bylaws good neighbors make? (with apologies to Robert Frost)  Several residents have already called this passage in a current newspaper article to my attention, and it immediately caught my eye, too, so I can hardly allow it to pass without comment:
"If established, a locally appointed Historic District Commission would review any proposed changes to the exterior of buildings as viewed from public ways and would have to issue certificates of approval for property owners proposing any altercations."
Whoops: little typo there, Scott (or whoever did the data entry).

Still, far more embarrassing typos are possible, even in historic preservation stories.  I came across this naughty little howler recently while reviewing coverage of the controversies surrounding Edith Wharton's The Mount. But I digress.

Actually, the typo is inadvertently appropriate in its way:

Local historic districts exist in order to enforce the public interest in protecting historic resources.  However, they also serve to maintain historic neighbor character in the broadest sense. Even if a given homeowner dutifully preserves his or her property in the appropriate manner, there is, absent such regulation, no guarantee that a neighbor or new property owner will do likewise. So, in that sense, a local district ordinance, developed on the basis of residents' preferences and duly approved by local government, could actually help to resolve conflict and preserve neighborhood peace.  Nonetheless, a local district commission can regulate only proposed changes to architectural features of buildings visible from the public way.  Residents will still have to organize fights on their own.
Daily Hampshire Gazette, 15 June
"Forum tonight targets Dickinson area"
[also published yesterday as "Forum to be held Tuesday in Amherst in historic district surrounding Dickinson homestead"]
By Scott Merzbach

AMHERST - A public information forum about a proposed Local Historic District surrounding the Emily Dickinson Museum and Homestead will be held tonight from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Amherst Woman's Club at 35 Triangle St.

The Local Historic District Study Committee is encouraging residents, especially property owners, to attend the session.

The forum will include presenting material outlining the historical significance of the Dickinson National Register Historical District and the Main Street neighborhood, the process to establish a local district and the sets of rules and regulations accompanying such a district.

Jerry Guidera, a member of the committee, said in an email that this would be the first local historic district in Amherst

"If the Dickinson neighborhood local historic district is adopted by Town Meeting next spring, there would likely be efforts to establish local historic districts in other areas of town," Guidera said.

The Select Board created the study committee in fall 2008 after the Historical Commission brought it forward. If established, a locally appointed Historic District Commission would review any proposed changes to the exterior of buildings as viewed from public ways and would have to issue certificates of approval for property owners proposing any altercations.

Amherst has nine historic districts and buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, but these don't offer the same level of protection to structures that a local historic district would.

A handout at the forum will ask property owners to provide feedback on the historical character of the neighborhood.

For more information, call Nathaniel Malloy in the town's Planning Department at 259-3040.
Having announced the process here at the outset, I'll continue to provide updates as it unfolds.

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