By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – A Special Town Meeting was held Oct. 21, 2019 at which voters adopted Article 5 which would fund a survey of historical homes and properties to determine their historical value.
The passage of this Article was the culmination of the work of several people in the community who were passionate about preserving historic buildings, notably the Shrewsbury Historic Preservation Committee (SHPC) which was formed in 2018 by the Board of Selectmen to focus on historic structures worthy of long-term protection from demolition.
When recently asked about the survey’s importance, Paul Schwab, member of the Shrewsbury Historical Commission said, “When they [historical buildings] are gone, they’re gone!”
“The Historical Commission and interested residents have advocated for a preservation bylaw to protect our historic assets, most recently at the 2019 Annual Town Meeting, where a citizens petition was filed and ultimately voted down at the request of the petitioners to allow for a comprehensive inventory of historic properties to occur,” remarked Beth Casavant, chair of the Board of Selectmen.
Casavant added that the intent of the survey was “to take an objective look at places of possible historic significance using a concrete set of criteria so that everyone in the community, including those that own those properties, are all on the same page.”
Since the fall 2019 Town Meeting, the Shrewsbury Historical Commission collaborated with Town Manager Kevin Mizikar to move the survey forward.
“This mission and the vision of the [Historical] Commission is to oversee a survey and to make recommendations for preservation to the Board of Selectmen…” Schwab said. “But then COVID hit and it halted everything.”
“So, we were in a really tricky waiting period for many, many months so as that [COVID] ticked down a little bit over the summer the renewal effort to try to get that going again picked back up as we came into the fall,” Schwab explained.
Survey has begun
Work on the survey is now underway. The architectural firm Spencer, Sullivan & Vogt: Architecture & Preservation, based in Charlestown, was awarded the contract just prior to the holiday season.
Gerry Sullivan, principal, remarked that they are surveying roughly 160 historic buildings, (mostly residential) that have been determined to have some historical character. They also are assessing the conditions of the structures according to criteria set by state standards.
Shrewsbury recently adopted the Community Preservation Act (CPA) at the November 2020 general election.
As such, he noted that survey findings can impact what buildings might be eligible for CPA funding.
Through the use of maps and other historical information, they can assess the age that a structure was built, when any additions were added and whether there is any historical significance as far as the people who lived there.
Sullivan said that he was surprised that the stock from the early 19th century is still fairly substantial.
The survey is expected to be complete this spring.
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