WESTFIELD, NJ — (Updated July 18) An extensive revision to the town's Historic Preservation law heads to the town council for approval Aug. 11 following a determination by the planning board that it is in keeping with the town's guide for development, known as the master plan.
What follows are some key facts about how the process of historic designation would work under proposed revisions to the local law.
1. How would a home or district become designated as historic? Under the proposed ordinance, the Historic Preservation Commission or the Planning Board may nominate an historic home or district for designation by the Town Council.
2. Would public input be taken prior to historic designation? Yes. The Historic Preservation Commission would be required to schedule a public hearing on the proposed designation and notify property owners impacted at least 20 days before the hearing, according to the ordinance. The town council would then have to approve and refer to the planning board the proposed designation, which would then come back to the council for final approval, according to the regulation.
3. Would a historic designation restrict homeowners’ ability to alter the exterior of a home? Yes. If a home were designated historic, or within an historic district, the historic preservation commission would have to issue a “certificate of appropriateness” for changes proposed to be made to the exterior facade of “any existing historic landmark or of any improvement within any historic district by addition, alteration, replacement, rehabilitation, restoration or reconstruction,” the regulation states. A proposed revision to the local law would allow an exception for changing the paint on the exterior of the home.
4. How can property owners object to a designation? A written petition signed by the owners of 20% or more of the area of either the lots or land included in the proposed designation or of the lots or land extending 200 feet in all directions, including street space, of the property would invalidate an historic designation. In such a case, a two-thirds vote of the town council in favor of the designation could override the owners' objections, according to the proposed ordinance.
5. Why was 1930 chosen as the threshold year for which homes proposed to be demolished would be reviewed for historic designation? According to a Q&A posted on the town’s website, a review of districts detailed in the town’s master plan shows homes built before 1930 “have defining elements which are reflective of a higher level of tradesman construction not present in structures after 1930.”
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