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Distinction would limit changes to exteriors
The Beacon City Council will hold a public hearing on Monday (June 7) on 18 properties on Main Street or close to Main that are being considered for the city’s historic district.
The council began discussing additions to the historic district — which is actually an overlay, meaning it can be applied to buildings throughout the city — in 2018. In 2019 and early 2020, before the pandemic shutdown, the council held public hearings on 35 properties recommended for inclusion in the district but never voted upon.
Those 35 were narrowed to the current 18, which the city has referred to as a “practice run.”
“We wanted to do this first round as a chance to get some public feedback,” City Administrator Chris White said on Wednesday (June 2).
About 280 homes and structures are already in the district, which prevents them and neighboring buildings from being altered in a way that the city believes will harm their historic value.
The City Council is required to make a decision on the properties within 60 days of the hearing, or by early August, unless Monday’s hearing is continued to a later date. The owners of the buildings can ask to be excluded, but a supermajority of the council (five of its seven members) can overrule an objection.
Historic properties are eligible to apply for permits allowing special uses associated with history, the arts or culture, such as hotels or other professional uses, according to a letter sent last month by the city to the owners of the 18 under consideration. The restoration of historic features may be eligible for tax exemptions and, in some instances, historic preservation grants.
However, the district also has its own architectural and design standards, which bothered some property owners during previous public hearings.
Any alteration of exterior historic features visible from a public street, sidewalk or park would require a certificate of appropriateness from the Planning Board. All of the nominated properties are located in the Central Main Street zoning district, which already requires site-plan review by the Planning Board for significant exterior changes.