Westfield's pre-war homes are what makes this town unique. We can probably agree there are streets in our older neighborhoods where many of the homes have that “Westfield” look to them and it would be a shame to lose these period homes to demolition. While I applaud Westfield’s efforts to preserve older homes, the idea of being reactionary instead of proactive will ensure the very homes in question will be damaged beyond reasonable repair before the application makes it to the Historic Preservation Committee (HPC). More on that in a minute.
I am a builder and remodeler in Westfield. I’ve built ten new construction homes in town both for sale and custom builds. I've renovated many others. In each new spec home I try to incorporate architectural features that harken back to pre-war construction. For example, the arched front window in the gable of my own home was copied from a classic Westfield home in Boulevard’s historic section. I've also included handmade gas lamps on the outside of two homes.
Here’s my concern with the new ordinance. In order to submit an application for demolition, the builder must complete the town’s demolition checklist. This includes cutting power, water and gas service from the main, removing oil tanks, removing asbestos in the walls, baiting for rodents, and a lot of required paperwork. Without power the basement typically floods within days, pipes freeze, flooring buckles from humidity, paint peels and mold growth runs rampant.
The demolition application is then submitted to the building department who sends it to HPC. My question to the town council and HPC is: What do you expect the homeowner to do with the house if HPC denies the application and deems the home historic? The house is now uninhabitable and may be damaged beyond reasonable repair. I think we can all agree the ordinance needs some tweaking before being approved to save homes from the demolition application itself.