Monday, May 5, 2014

Changes proposed for Winchester's historic district regulations

Posted: Monday, May 5, 2014 12:00 pm
WINCHESTER — The way the town preserves its historic buildings is getting another look.
The Winchester Historic District Commission has unveiled a set of proposed regulations that members hope will better define what can and can’t be done to homes and businesses in the town’s two historic districts. It’s the second plan in less than six months.
The new proposed regulations, which were discussed at a public hearing last week, are less detailed and extensive than the ones the commission presented late last year. The commission withdrew that version at a public hearing in January.
Commission Chairman Denis V. Murphy 2nd said this morning that residents attending the hearing last week offered a number of comments about the newest proposal, and commission members will consider that input as they continue to hash out the regulations, which will take some time.
The two biggest points residents made at the hearing were that the proposed regulations weren’t extensive enough, and some areas needed clarification, Murphy said.
The proposal includes a series of guidelines and rules property owners are required either to take under advisement or follow when making changes to the outside of their homes and some other parts of their property.
For example, the removal or alteration of historic features should be avoided, and deteriorating historic features should try to be repaired rather than replaced. When it isn’t possible to repair a historic feature, then the replacement should match the design and color of it, where possible.
The document also includes a clause outlining under what conditions a building can be demolished in the historic districts.
Requests for razing “shall be based on structural integrity and building code defects, and must include a report from a licensed architect or professional engineer, or contractor with (the) appropriate level or experience,” according to the proposed regulations.
The commission has come under scrutiny in recent years for enforcing an ordinance that some believe is too extensive and creates hardship for property owners. Things came to a boiling point in 2011 when the commission denied a request to demolish a roughly 200-year-old house at 71 Main St. to make way for a Dollar General.
The property is owned by Margaret A. Sharra, land use administrator and code enforcement officer for the town, and her brothers, James S. and Michael P. Shannon.
A petition warrant article filed in December, around the same time the historic district commission unveiled its first version of proposed regulations, sought to abolish the Winchester Historic District Ordinance.
The two historic districts were created by voters at town meeting in 1997.
One district covers a section of Main Street from Chapel Street southwest to the Route 10 bridge, and portions of Michigan and High streets and Richmond Road. The other covers a section of Ashuelot Main Street, and Old Hinsdale and Back Ashuelot roads.
The ordinance also created a commission to oversee the districts and enact and enforce regulations in them.
The petition warrant article to abolish the ordinance included the signatures of members of the Sharra and Shannon families.
It failed, 350-296, at town meeting in March.
Meghan Foley can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1436, or Follow her on Twitter @MFoleyKS.


Only In Winchester-AGAIN said...

Is the town hall parking lot part of the historic district? It looks like a crime scene, and should be an embarrassment to everyone who lives in this town.

Anonymous said...

It's the Harolds and McCoys at work.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Murphy should consult the town's attorney, Bart Meyer (he originally drafted the current historic district ordinance). He will confirm that in order for the Commission to change the ordinance it is required to go before the town vote in March.

Anonymous said...

Noticed the Town Administrator has new place. Man not included.
Henry mowing the lawn. Who's paying for that? Just saying.