Study for Possible East Amherst Local Historic District to Begin This Summer


Amherst East Village Map (1860). Photo:

Report on the Meeting of the Local Historic District Commission, March 18, 2024

This meeting was held over Zoom and was recorded. It can be viewed here.

Nancy Ratner (Chair), Nicole Miller, Elizabeth Sharpe, Greta Wilcox, and Bruce Coldham. Absent: Steve Bloom

Staff:Nate Malloy (Senior Planner)

Community Preservation Act Funds to Enable Study For East Amherst Local Historic District
The Community Preservation Act (CPA) committee unanimoously recommended in a report dated January 26, allocating $20,000 to hire historic preservation consultant Chris Skelly to research properties in the proposed East Amherst local historic district.  The Town Council will vote on whether to accept the CPA committee’s recommendations at their April 1 meeting. If the funds are approved, Skelly will update the historical record cards after the funds become available on July 1, 2024. The Local Historic District Commission (LDHC) discussed whether Spaulding Street should be included in the study. Spaulding Street is not included in the existing National Historic District, but the consensus of the LHDC was that the houses on Spaulding Street were of a similar appearance and date as those in the area near the East Amherst Common, so their historical significance should be documented in the study. East Amherst  was the original downtown of Amherst.

The commission also decided to send pamphlets and letters to residents of historic districts and also to real estate agents to inform them that as owners and sellers of historic structures or buildings in the local historic districts, they need to bring any proposed exterior changes to their homes to the appropriate historic commissions for review. These designations will also be put on the property cards, so that new owners would be aware of their obligations.

Parking Areas for More than Five Cars Will Need Review in Proposed Bylaw

Malloy and Building Commissioner Rob Morra have been working on a revision of the General Bylaws (section 3.49)  in regard to regulating parking in the local historic districts. The commission can restrict parking areas and their impact on a historic site, but not the use (i.e.parking) . The proposed bylaw change defines parking areas as “new or expanded improved surface within the property designed to accommodate a total, cumulative number of five or more parking spaces. Parking areas do not include other areas, such as access drives, not designed for parking spaces.”

Staff noted that while most permit applications trigger review by the LHDC, often changes only to parking do not. When asked what triggered this proposed amendment change, Malloy replied that rental properties may no longer appear residential in character with parking requirements that impact negatively on neighborhoods. He said large parking areas can disrupt the neighborhood character. With the Zoning Bylaw permitting more than one principal use on a property, the scale and or location of parking may be inappropriate for the neighborhood. Bruce Coldham felt that five parking spaces or more seemed to be a logical number to trigger review, since duplexes are already are required to have two spaces per unit, or four total spaces. Any more than four spaces would require a review by the LHDC. Malloy said that Brookline, among other Massachusetts towns, has such a bylaw.

Malloy said that he and Morra will work on the wording of the amendment and bring it back to the LHDC for further review and a recommendation to the Town Council.

Upcoming Hearings
This meeting was called due to a hearing for an exterior door on McClellan Street that was begun on February 13. The application was withdrawn because the applicant decided not to do the project. The withdrawal was approved by the commission.

Malloy expected a permit application for proposed construction to add another multi-unit building to the property at 98 Fearing Street. He expected that the application would be ready for a public hearing at the next meeting. The project will also require approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals. The next meeting of the LHDC is scheduled for April 29 at 3 p.m.

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