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‘Scaled back’ heritage district to be discussed

GREENFIELD ­— Planning Board members are encouraging residents to consider creating a Neighborhood Heritage District that would be intended to protect the character of the village portion of the town.

On Saturday, the board will hold a community meeting to hear feedback on the latest version of the plan, which members have been working on for about a year, according to Planning Board Chair Bob Marshall. The meeting will start at 9 a.m. in the Stephenson Memorial Library.

“We are in the final stages of soliciting public input before we present the ordinance at Town Meeting in March,” Marshall said last week. “When we had our first meeting, people said they didn’t want a historic district. That was simply too onerous. Now we have a scaled back version to discuss. The difference is that a Neighborhood District is designed to preserve the character of buildings, not the architectural details.”

Marshall said a Neighborhood Heritage District is a new tool for planning that was first approved by the state in 2008.

“If this passes, it will be the first one in the state,” he said.

A draft of the proposed ordinance states that the Neighborhood Heritage District is intended “to protect and unique characteristics of the village area, maintain the rural beauty of the town and guide new investment to stabilize and strengthen our tax base.”

The Neighborhood Heritage District would include the current Business District and much of the current Village District. Along Forest Road, it would extend from the railroad crossing on the west to 692 Forest Road on the east. It would go north to 88 Sawmill Road, north to Hopkins Lane on Francestown Road and south to the railroad crossing on Slip Road.

The ordinance would set up a Neighborhood Advisory Committee to review proposed changes to properties in the district.

“We’re talking about demolition, major alterations, expansion of parking, cutting down mature trees — those kinds of things,” Marshall said.

The Advisory Committee of three to seven members would be appointed by the Select Board and should include one or more residents or business owners of the district and a Planning Board member. The committee would review new construction of 200 square feet or more that is visible from a public road, demotion of buildings that are visible from a public road, new parking areas or expansion of parking that leads to a paved area of 1,000 square feet or more, new fences are not made of wood or stone or are greater than four feet tall, and removal of mature trees.

The Advisory Committee would hold a public hearing on the project, then provide a written report to the Planning Board, which would make the decision whether to approve the proposal.

The town’s vision statement, Marshall said, calls for three priorities — maintaining the town’s heritage and historical significance; preserving natural resources, open space and farmland; and promoting economic development.

“We have to do the protection part first,” Marshall said. “That’s what this plan is for. We’ll be looking for feedback: What do you like? What do you not like? What’s missing?”

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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