Historical Commission Will Need To Resubmit Nominations To National Register.  Robin Fordham Elected New Chair


Town Hall Under Construction (ca. 1866). Photo: Amherst Historical Society

Report On The Meeting Of The Amherst Historical Commission, December 14, 2022

This meeting was held over Zoom and was recorded.

Jan Marquardt (chair), Becky Lockwood, Hetty Startup, Madeleine Helmer, Robin Fordham (arrived 7:05). Absent Pat Auth.

Staff: Nate Malloy (Senior Planner, staff liaison)

Preservation Plan Survey Being Developed
Consultant Preservation Planner, Shannon Walsh, of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) provided an update on the development of a Preservation Plan that was begun on May 1, 2022. The hope is to finish the plan during this fiscal year, so the timeline now is to begin public outreach with an on-line digital survey, meetings with stakeholders (institutions and people who can provide input as to what is important to have in the Preservation Plan), as well as input from town staff. The public survey will contain short answer questions that are easy for the PVCP staff to process. It is being edited now and will be available from January through April for public access.

Some comments from the Commission were that questions regarding the importance of preservation should be included. Jan Marquardt noted the polarization that she sees in Amherst between preservation and development. She views preservation not as anti-development, but as a “kind of development.” Madeleine Helmer calls it the “ultimate recycling,” in line with the town’s sustainability policies.  Preservation of municipal buildings is at the top of the commission members’ list of priorities. Reference was made to a website, Place Economics, maintained by a preservation economist who gives 24 reasons why preservation is good for the community.

Applications For National Register Of Historic Places Nominees Need To Be Resubmitted
Next, Walsh discussed the status of the National Register of Historic Places nominations that were submitted in 2015: Dickinson district expansion, East Village expansion, and a new Depot District.

Feedback from the state is that the standards have changed, so that an application for the entire district has to be submitted as a new application, repeating a lot of work that has been done already. The question for the commission is whether they want to go forward. Hettie Startup asked whether the state was interested in a Bay Road historic district, and the answer seems to be no, but the brick tavern and the Simeon Smith house could be submitted as individual properties if the owners were cooperative, because photos of the interior and exterior of the properties are required for the application.

New Officers Elected
This was Marquardt’s last meeting, Robin Fordham was elected unanimously to be the next chair with Madeleine Helmer as vice chair.  Nate Malloy, with the help of Becky Lockwood, will replace Ben Breger as the person who decides what changes proposed for structures over 75 years old are considered to be “significant” and need to go to the commission for a public hearing. He stated that he will be conservative in his determinations and that he leans toward putting applications that are not clearcut before the commission.

CPA Requests For Historical Preservation Exceed Amount Available
In other business, Fordham sought the commission’s input on how to manage the $155,700 budget for the North Amherst Zion Church and the $233, 289 budget for repair of the South Amherst Church that have been submitted as requests for Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds. There are CPA requests for more than $8.1 million dollars, but only $1.9 million of new money and $500,000 in reserves available. The slate roof of the North Church requires immediate emergency repair which can be done now with funds from the reserves, while other needed repairs can be funded from the FY25 budget. Malloy noted that the amounts required could be bonded to spread out the costs over years.

Other Business
There are two vacancies on the Historical Commission. The need for new members who are willing and able to share in the work load was again raised. Also suggested was the possibility of a “Barn Tour,” similar to the house tours sponsored by the Historical Society, to educate the public on the importance of out-building preservation.

Lastly, an unanticipated item came as a referral from the Design Review Board. The North Amherst Fire Station, completed in December, 1975 is asking to replace the faded white or neutral decorative siding above the south bay doors and the western upper story windows with red metal siding. The Design Review Board liked the plan, but sought input from the Historical Commission. Members thought that a more neutral color would blend in better with the brutalist UMass buildings, if that was the original idea of the architects. This item will be on the January agenda.

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