Work to preserve the character and fabric of Belmont's historic buildings and landscapes and of its older neighborhoods continued apace for the Belmont Historic District Commission in 2004.
Within the Pleasant Street Historic District, the Commission was involved in four major activities. First was the rehabilitation of the Town Hall Complex. As the Commission's representative on the Town Hall Complex Building Committee, Michael Smith continued to work cooperatively and successfully with the other members to put the finishing touches on the renovations of the Town Hall Annex and the School Administration Building.
Second, the Commission continued its effort to improve the plans for the reconstruction of Pleasant Street, in particular that section of the street that runs through the Pleasant Street Historic District, by protecting character-defining elements such as walls and trees, by reviewing suggested designs for new poles and lighting fixtures and by exploring the possibility of burying wires underground with Tim McCarthy, Director of the Municipal Light Department.
The Commission also continued to fulfill its core responsibility within the Historic District: assisting residents in preserving the historic character of their houses and landscapes and in making appropriate alterations and additions when necessary. Numerous public hearings were held during the year to discuss and/or review plans for changes or additions to the exteriors of ten houses or outbuildings in the District. The Commission greatly appreciates the cooperative spirit of the citizens who came before it since only a joint effort between the Commission and the residents can succeed in preserving the Town's architectural and scenic heritage.
To better serve these residents, the Commission had hoped to complete and publish a revised, clearly defined set of design guidelines for them to follow in maintaining and improving their houses. As prepared by Lisa Harrington, the first draft of the guidelines was ready for review, but other commitments prevented the Commission from finishing the task. In order to avoid further delay, the Commission will hold a special Saturday meeting in March, 2005, in order to finalize the guidelines.
In its additional capacity as Belmont's Historical Commission, responsible for identifying historic resources throughout the Town and for working with the Board of Selectmen, the Planning Board and Town departments to plan for their protection, the Historic District Commission was engaged in the following activities:
First, the Commission continued to implement the Historic Preservation Agreement that the Town reached with McLean Hospital as part of the Memorandum of Agreement for developing specific zones within the existing campus by continuing its review of the final drawings for the first phase of building construction (Unit #4) within Zone 1A and for roadway construction within Zone 1B. Representatives of Northland Residential Corporation
worked cooperatively with the designated subcommittee of the Commission - Arleyn Levee and Michael Smith - to make refinements in the designs that would satisfy the conditions attached to the Commission's approval of the drawings on September 10, 2003.
Second, the Commission remained involved in the planning process for the Trapelo Road Corridor Project. Associate members Matt Genta and Caroline Darbyshire continued their work to identify those buildings of historic or architectural significance that are worth preserving as symbols of past vitality in a community that is ready to renew itself, to assess the possibilities for those buildings, and to share their findings with the other Town committees and citizen groups that are concerned with the area's revival.
Another on-going commitment was the Commission's effort to preserve the Town's three fire stations. To help the Waverley Fire Station Reuse Committee with its task of finding a new use for that station, the Commission sent a representative, Lisa Harrington, to many of their meetings to suggest preservation measures that might be needed to protect the building when it is sold by the town, including the option of a Preservation Restriction.
Fourth, in response to requests from the Massachusetts Historical Commission for review and comment, the Commission examined four proposed projects - three for new telecommunications installations and one for new affordable housing units - to assess their impact on the historic resources in the surrounding neighborhoods.
A fifth involvement began when the Commission was asked to appoint a representative to serve on the Site Planning Committee for a new Public Library building. Architect member Paul Bell agreed to join that Committee.
In response to the large number of recent, sudden demolitions of houses and other buildings in Belmont which have occurred without notice to the immediate neighborhood, the Commission was asked to draw up a demolition delay bylaw for Belmont which would be presented in 2005 to the Planning Board and the Board of Selectmen for their consideration. If approved, the bylaw would then be submitted at the next Town Meeting.
In a related effort, the Commission has been helping to draft a Town bylaw amendment that would allow special permits to be granted for the adaptive reuse of historic accessory buildings in Belmont, as proposed by a group of concerned citizens.
Last but not least, the Commission engaged in two town-wide educational initiatives. To enhance public appreciation of the social, cultural and economic benefits of historic preservation, a Regional Preservation Seminar was held on Thursday evening, April 29, 2004, in Brewster Hall, All Saints Church, at 17 Clark Street, Belmont. Conducted by Preservation Massachusetts, a statewide non-profit preservation organization, in conjunction with the Massachusetts Historical Commission, the Seminar was attended by citizens and historical commission members from seven different towns. For the same purpose of increasing awareness of both the practical and intellectual advantages of protecting the Town's man-made and natural heritage, work was also begun on a series of articles on preservations issues and measures that will be
submitted for publication in the Belmont Citizen.
The highlight of the year for the Commission was the selection of Co-Chair Lydia Phippen Ogilby as the recipient of the Massachusetts Historical Commission’s 2004 Annual Preservation Award for Lifetime Achievement. Nominated jointly by the Commission and the Belmont Land Trust, she received her award on September 10 at a special ceremony at the Peabody-Essex Museum in Salem. The photographic poster that had been made in her honor for that occasion was then graciously framed by the Belmont Land Trust and presented to her again by the Board of Selectmen at Town Meeting on November 29.
With regard to the Commission's membership, Arleyn Levee and Nancy Richards were reappointed by the Board of Selectmen. After two terms of faithful service, Jonathan Treat resigned because of overlapping commitments, and Associate member Lisa Harrington was appointed to the Commission in his stead.
To the many citizens who have helped to preserve Belmont's rich heritage of fine buildings, beautiful landscapes and other historic resources during 2004, the Commission wishes to express its great gratitude. We look forward to your continued advice and assistance in 2005.
Richard Cheek, Co-Chairman, Lydia Phippen Ogilby, Co-Chairman