Meeting set for owners historic properties

Owners of historic homes and residents in the six historic districts scattered throughout Westport should take notice. The Historic District Commission (HDC) intends to clarify guidelines pertaining to modifying and renovating the exterior of a house under the department's new update to its 158-page handbook.

The changes in obtaining a certificate of appropriateness, which allows historic homes to be modified in sections that are viewable to people standing on the closest streets, are minor but Grayson Braun, an alternate member on the HDC, believes that new homeowners might not be fully aware.

"Property changes hands so quickly and frequently," she said.

She added, "The people who ... have lived there long enough know that they're in a [historic] district and in some cases know what they need to do, but a lot of new property owners have come into town. They probably are not aware of what the process is."

The meeting is scheduled for Monday, April 26, at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at Town Hall.

There are 15 local historic properties in town, and they have similar restrictions placed upon them to ensure preservation as the six historic districts, which are located on Evergreen Avenue, Gorham Avenue, Kings Highway North, Jesup Road, Morningside Drive South and Violet Lane.

An overview of the new handbook, which was funded by grants, will be presented by HDC chairman Maggie Feczko. The handbook gives step-by step procedures through the application process, a list of regulated and non-regulated changes that can be made to a home, and design guidelines.

"The goal of the commission is to work with historic property owners to preserve and enhance Westport's historic treasures," said Feczko in a statement.

To Braun's recollection, this is the first time there's been a meeting of this type, and she believes there's been a rising interest in preservation in Westport since the first historic district was formed in the 1970s.

"It's not just that there's been more construction," she said. "There's been more awareness of the fact that our town is changing drastically and a lot of really old, historic structures are being lost. People have woken up that and said `hey, we want to preserve this.'"

According to a press release released by the HDC, it is the department's mandate to promote the interests of historic preservation throughout the Westport. In addition to maintaining regulations on properties, "the HDC has an advisory obligation to other town agencies in matters related to historic preservation. The handbook is intended for use by residents, businesses, governmental agencies and the HDC itself."