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Commission revives its role in the community

April 26, 2013
<b>Roberta Page</b><br>Reminder Publications submitted photo

Roberta Page
Reminder Publications submitted photo

By Carley Dangona


WEST SPRINGFIELD — The Historic District Commission conducted its first meeting this month after many years of idleness. The group is an additional committee, separate from the Historical Commission.

According to Roberta Page, the commission's newly elected chair, it has almost a "full complement" of commissioners after years of having only one. Harold White is the vice chair, Helen Calabrese is the secretary and former judge Edward Peck is the treasurer. A fifth member has been nominated, but Page declined to name that person since the final determination to add him or her is pending.

Massachusetts General Law (MGL), Chapter 40C, section 4 states, "Whenever an historic district is established as provided in section three an historic district commission shall be established which shall consist of not less than three nor more than seven members."

The MGL defines the duties of the Historic District Commission as reviews the alteration/reconstruction of exterior structures such as roofs, doors, windows, terraces, paint, signs and lighting fixtures.

In many towns, only one commission exists, but West Springfield has a separate Historical Commission.

Richard Kosinski, chairman of the Historical Commission, said that the duties of his commission are to publicize the historic characteristics and structures of the community and to maintain historical documents and records.

He added that the Historical Commission also assists with the maintenence of historic sites, such as the Union Street Cemetery, that are not part of the historic district's footprint.

Other projects the Historical Commission works on are planning and promoting the historic walking and driving program and inventorying historical artifacts.

"The Historic District Commission was lying dormant," Page said. "More than three years had passed since its last meeting." She said that an area is being set aside in the Town Hall for the commission to occupy.

Page explained that the members wants to create a "more proactive and productive" presence within the town. The commission seeks to establish guidelines for the current and proposed historic districts.

"We want to make sure we retain the flavor of our town — even though it's actually a city — without inhibiting the success of businesses and the lives of residents. We want to retain the atmosphere and ambience of West Springfield," Page said.

She said that the committee would like to "expand the historic footprint" of the town to include the West Springfield public library, some of the old cemeteries in the area and Park Avenue.

According to Kosinski, there are two historic districts in the town. The first consists of the white church located at 732 Elm St., and the second is the Broadway Historic District, which encompasses both town commons, and the north side of Park Street.

The committee is currently researching to see if the parking lots of the West Springfield Senior Center and the William A. Cowing School on Park Street are eligible for repaving since the lots fall within the historic district. Page called the parking lots "deplorable" and said that the committee will work with the Department of Public Works to consider what options are available to improve the areas.

Another concern the committee has regards the trees in the town commons. Page stated that approximately 14 trees are slated for removal due to the effects of disease and damage from the various storms the town has endured. The commission is interested in having a certified arborist assess the trees prior to their removal because it would like to salvage as many as possible.

Page said she hopes that some of the trees won't have to be completely removed, but instead undergo trimming to remove the affected branches of the trees. She said that an assessment would only cost a few hundred dollars and could save the town money if the trees can be salvaged since their removal will cost thousands of dollars.

Page also stated that the commission would like to me with Mayor Gregory Neffinger and the architect of the library renovation. "We have some possible modifications we'd like to offer regarding the exterior of the library and its windows," she said.

"We have the energy, passion and willingness to do this for the town," Page said of her fellow committee members and their passion for preserving the history of West Springfield. She added that "if nothing else, as a courtesy" the commission hopes other boards and committees will bring projects before the commission because its members have "a lot of outstanding ideas" that they are willing to offer.

The next meeting of the commission will take place April 29 at 5:30 p.m. in the Tatham meeting room of the Town Hall, located at 26 Central St.

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