Hope remains for heritage district
Planning Board weighs options after proposal was soundly defeated at the polls
GREENFIELD — The Greenfield Planning Board remains divided on what to do with the proposed Heritage District that was voted down at the ballots earlier this month. Do they rework it and present to voters again next year, or let it go altogether? That was the question they debated at their meeting Tuesday night.
At the polls, the heritage district proposal was defeated with 295 no votes and 78 yes votes. The heritage district proposal called for an advisory committee of residents to review residents’ proposed changes within the district. The heritage district would have been located in the town center and would have included the business district and portions of the village district on Forest, Francestown and Sawmill roads.
Board member James Fletcher discussed the idea of proposing the district again, saying, “We should modify the neighborhood heritage district. We can keep the ordinance the way it is, but make participation strictly voluntary.”
Reviewable changes within the proposed heritage district include additions, demolitions, removal of mature trees, and changes related to stone walls and fencing. The advisory committee recommendations would then go to the Planning Board for the final decision. This proposal was overwhelmingly defeated at the polls due to sentiment that there would be too much government intrusion.
Fellow board member Stephen Chicoine pointed out that Hancock had run into similar concerns about their historic district and had amended ordinances to accommodate public wishes. “Hancock got rid of the tree removal ordinance. It was seen as a symbol of government intrusiveness,” he said.
Paul Renaud strongly disagreed the idea of bringing the issue back to voters, saying that the board needs to listen to the townspeople. “The problem is deeper than tree removal, it was overwhelmingly defeated. I don’t know if we should work against Town Meeting results. I’m against trying to institute things that were overwhelmingly defeated.”
Fletcher responded by saying, “We should see what we can eliminate from the current ordinance. We should also go through all of our zoning ordinances annually.” Fletcher also felt that the heritage district defeat proved that the board needed better communication with the townspeople, which was added to the board’s yearly goals for the coming year.
Renaud said the townspeople had sent the board a clear message by voting down the district by a wide margin. “People shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to fix or change their own homes or properties.”
The board did not come to a decision about the fate of the neighborhood heritage district proposal, but the tabled the discussion Tuesday in favor of dealing with other matters that night.
Other goals of the board for 2014 include completing as much of the Master Plan as possible, continuing to mull over the heritage district and its ordinances, reviewing current zoning ordinances in town, and a tentative charrette scheduled for September.
According to Planning Board chair Rob Marshall, the current idea is to have the charrette during the last weekend in September.
The Planning Board has a $3,500 budget for 2014.
New member Sherry Fox will be serving as the board’s secretary. Fletcher will serve as vice-chair of the board, while Marshall was appointed chair, but he made it be known that this will be his last year.
“I’m happy to be your chair for one more year, but then I’d like to step down and let someone else take over. I’d still like to be involved, but I want to give someone else a chance,” he told the board.