PLAINFIELD, NJ - Members of the Historic Preservation Commission have met informally with block associations and neighborhood groups to discuss the proposed expansion of two historic districts. On June 12, a public meeting will be held on the proposal, from 7 to 9 p.m. at duCret School of Art, 1030 Central Ave.
The Van Wyck Brooks and Netherwood Heights districts – two of the city’s six residential historic districts – are being considered for expansion. Each of the 249 properties involved was studied by preservationist Barton Ross last year, resulting in a highly detailed report. Ross will be on hand at the June 12 meeting.
According to William Michelson, chairman of the HPC, "More than half of the property owners would have to opt out by petition, to preclude being added to the historic district. Since these are expansions around the edges of the current districts, if such petitions are submitted, we will have to attempt a common-sense approach to such a result."
Once a structure is included in a historic district, any exterior changes would have to be reviewed by the HPC, which issues a “Certificate of Appropriateness” to show that the changes meet design guidelines. On Tuesday, a Webster Place couple explained their plan for new fencing and a shed and quickly received approval. Other cases, such as a plan to convert a former nursing home to 25 apartments for veterans, take much longer for review.
In December, resident Allan Rosenberg told commissioners he and his neighbors want to know the “pluses and minuses” of being in a historic district. A big plus has been the admiring crowds who throng house tours in the districts, to get a glimpse of the grandeur and workmanship that graced the Victorian era. If legislators pass a proposed tax credit bill for historic restoration, that will be another plus.
While some fret over meeting the standard of replacing “like with like,” such as a slate roof, commissioners including architects and restoration experts have been generous with advice.
HPC commissioners planned Tuesday to have enlarged maps of the districts and the proposed expansion on display at the June 12 meeting. Commissioner Mario Camino called for as much publicity as possible for maximum input from property owners.
A very happy note Tuesday was news of a NJ Historic Preservation Leadership Award from Preservation New Jersey, an advocacy group. (See more here https://www.preservationnj.org/about/about-us/ )
“For many years, we have recognized organizations and individuals that have made important and sustained contributions to the understanding and promotion of historic preservation and history in New Jersey,” Director Courtenay D. Mercer wrote. “We are honored to salute the Plainfield Historic Preservation Commission for long-term leadership, education, and commitment to the preservation of Plainfield’s historic treasures for the people of New Jersey.”
Mercer said the HPC’s investment to the past “consistently delivers historic preservation success stories that celebrate heritage while creating jobs and leveraging private investment and tourism dollars.”
“Your work is a model of the potential of historic preservation when backed by a supportive, enthusiastic leadership and public,” he wrote, inviting members to a June 7 award ceremony in Paterson.
EDITOR'S NOTE: A previous version of the story noted that more than half of the property owners must agree to the expansion for it to take place.
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