13 March 2003 | Approved: 8 April 2003
HPC members present: Bob Booher, Larry French, Chris Kirtz, and David Neumann Town Council Liaison present: Peggy Odick
The March 18th, 2003 meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission began at 7:00 p.m. with a discussion of the agenda. It was decided to defer discussion of rules of procedure to the following meeting scheduled for April.
The first substantive discussions concerned the design guidelines. Larry indicated that he had completed a partial draft and circulated it. David suggested the need for additional attention to both the distinction between contributing and non-contributing structures and descriptions of facets of properties that were of limited interest to the HPC. Bob reviewed previous decisions to limit our attention and concern over some of the items of "horizontal" construction such as driveways, patios and decks. Larry indicated that he would complete a draft of design guidelines that incorporated a variety of materials available to the HPC as well as previous decisions before March 21st.
The HPC then turned to a review to enclose a greenhouse at the residence of Judy Banachowski and Bruce Rothrock at 407 Acorn Avenue that had not, as yet, been reviewed by the Planning Commission for a permit. Both Mr. Rothrock and Ralph Hurst, the architect, attended this session as did Bud O’Connor from the Planning Commission. The latter indicated to HPC members that the Planning Commission had to conduct some research regarding relevant lot lines before determining whether the proposal would comply with limits on the percentage of lot area devoted to the residential structure. Chris Kirtz agreed to write up the review.
This review raised issues that the HPC had encountered before. One question has to do with the circumstances under which the HPC wants to review plans that have changed after a previous HPC review. This may easily occur when applicants submit plans to the HPC for review prior to submitting them to the Planning Commission for a permit. HPC members and Bud O’Connor agreed that Bud would determine whether the plans submitted to the Planning Commission had changed after HPC review. He will return them to the HPC if there are changes if (a) the changes appear to be significant ones or (b) if the structure involved is a contributing one. Thus even minor changes to a contributing structure would trigger a return to the HPC for another look.
The minutes from the meetings of January 21st and February 25th were then approved with some minor changes in both.
The HPC then turned to the issue of distinguishing between contributing and noncontributing structures. Clare Cavicchi, although unable to attend the meeting, had provided members with a memo suggesting that contributing structure should be defined as ones built within the period of historical significance (1873-1937) that retained "enough of their architectural integrity that the original building may still be discernible within the present structure". Thus noncontributing structures are those that have been built after 1937 or earlier structures that have been so altered that "the character or form of the original structure is no longer evident". However, in a second memo, Clare suggested that some houses built after 1937 might be included as contributing because of their "outstanding architecture or history". Larry indicated that he favored some flexibility in our designations that would lead post 1937 houses to be considered contributing if they had special architectural or historical merit. Peggy Odick, liaison from the Town Council, suggested that inclusion of houses on the basis of some historical significance might introduce excessive vagueness and subjectivity into these classification decisions. Chris and Bob saw merit in considering some post 1937 houses for inclusion based on architectural considerations of uniqueness within the town. In this discussion, David expressed concerns about excluding pre-1937 structures that had been significantly altered. He argued that it was worthwhile protecting those parts of structures, however minor, that had survived extensive programs of alteration. Larry suggested toward the end of this somewhat meandering discussion that perhaps members should focus more of the limited resources, time and energies on identifying and preserving the relatively small number of pre-1937 structures that remained largely intact and unaltered. Much of the above discussion was conducted as members reviewed Clare’s recommendations for classifying some 15-20 houses that were either pre-1937 structures that had undergone extensive renovations or post-1937 structures that appeared to be of architectural interest. Decisions were taken about most of the pre-1937 cases in doubt, but the issue of post 1937 structures remained with members pledging to address this issue at the next meeting.
Subsequent to this, the HPC turned to work by Chris to develop a sheet describing HPC purposes and procedures that would be given by Kathy Lehman to all applicants for building permits. Two issues received the most attention. The first concerned the statement of the purpose of the HPC with the other members urging a broader description that emphasized the fundamental purpose of historic preservation. The giving of advice to permit applicants and service as a clearinghouse for information are seen as ends to preservations, not ends in and of themselves. Chris asked for suggestions from other members in writing before the end of the week. At that time, he will change the description.
A second issue concerned HPC procedures. The sheet developed by Chris emphasizes "informal" contacts by applicants with the HPC prior to investments in finished plans that might lead applicants to disregard advice and recommendations from the HPC. All agreed that early, informal contacts had been and would be very useful. David suggested that it was desirable that such contacts occur between the applicant and all HPC members since no one individual could speak for the body. All agreed that, per the suggestion by Chris, he could serve as the first contact, given his interest and time to do so, but that the names and phone numbers of other members should be appended to the document with indications that they could also be contacted.
In the course of this discussion, members concluded that the HPC should distinguish between at least three forms of contact with applicants:
- informal contacts in applicants and members could freely discuss both applicant plans and HPC policies, but without any formal commitments made,
- preliminary or expedited reviews in which the HPC reviewed plans prior to review by the Planning Commission. This was viewed as highly desirable by members since this participation in the overall review process at an earlier point enabled the HPC to make, potentially, a greater contribution to applicant’s plans. To encourage applicants to submit plans first to the HPC, it was agreed that the HPC would only review subsequent changes in plans if they were extensive or if the structures were contributing.
- post-permit review. Most reviews have taken place after approval by the Planning Commission. The HPC will continue to make these reviews, but would prefer pre-permit reviews for the reasons indicated.
Minutes taken by Larry French.
The meeting was adjourned at 11:10 p.m.