Westport plans update of historic properties list
Published 3:52 pm, Wednesday, July 20, 2011
The term "historic" is open to interpretation. Though the federal government recognizes a home 50 years old or over as historic, a structure in Westport doesn't have to be that old to be listed on the town's Historic Resources Inventory.
As Carol Leahy, a staff administrator for the Historic District Commission, put it, a mid-century modern could make the list if it was designed by a significant architect or if it typifies a specific type of architecture. Conversely, not every home that's at least 50 years old is architecturally or historically significant, she said.
Three years have passed since the Historic Resources Inventory was last updated, so the commission plans a fresh look. It is seeking bids to hire a firm to review new inventory forms for approximately 70 historic properties in Westport Center and make recommendations for future planning purposes, as well as update approximately 60 HRI forms for properties already listed in the Kings Highway Historic District. The firm would also update forms for 10 historically significant structures on arteries leading to Westport Center and along the Post Road. Surveys of 10 properties identified by public request is also part of the assignment.
Inclusion on the Historic Resources Inventory does not restrict what a property owner can do and it does not prevent a developer from going forward with demolition. The inventory is considered by officials as an informational tool.
"The purpose is to try to educate or inform the public or the property owner as to the historical and architectural significance and to encourage them to preserve the structure," Leahy said.
The Historic District Commission, according to Chairman Randy Henkels, is required by the state to maintain as accurate an inventory of historic properties as possible, with periodic updates to add properties previously not included and to expand, update and standardize information included in earlier surveys.
The Historic Resources Inventory has proved a useful asset when demolition permits are sought by a builder. HDC members can refer to the document to see if a home is 50 years old or over. If it is, the HDC has authority to postpone demolition by as many as 180 days, and can try to talk to the owner about ways to save the building, or perhaps incorporate a historic structure into new construction.
Also, if someone requests a demolition permit for a home that is on the inventory, he or she has to put the build date on the list or on the field card at the assessor's office, making things easier for the HDC review.
Robert Weingarten, a commission member, said the inventory currently includes more than 1,000 properties.
The HDC is currently accepting bids for the inventory update until 10:30 a.m. Aug. 3 at the Finance Department in Town Hall, Room 313, 110 Myrtle Ave. Copies of the bid documents may be obtained by contacting Richard Kotchko, purchasing officer, at 203-341-1047, or by downloading the information from the town's website, www.westportct.gov.
Detailed requests for clarification of the scope of the project and conditions may be obtained by contacting Leahy at 203-341-1184 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.