To The Daily Sun,
Belmont's proposed Historic District Review Committee is responsible for one thing: Determining whether a building is historically significant, and if it is, holding a hearing to review possible alternatives.
Voters should know what this amendment to the town building code won't do. It won't replace standard demolition review, or stop immediate demolition where a building is a hazard or public safety risk. It also won't stop demolition by neglect, and doesn't mean every historically significant building can be saved.
Supporters seeking historic review include longtime volunteers, local business owners, former elected officials and Master Plan contributors from Conservation and Preservation, Housing and Transportation committees. Its filing was timely and endorsed by the selectmen-appointed Heritage Commission in January.
Nationally, demolition ordinances with historic review are a nearly 50-year-old community and neighborhood improvement tool. First community adoption in New Hampshire was 2001. Our state has nearly 50 Heritage Commissions and 60 Historic Districts. All of them take a little time to look at alternatives before the wrecking ball arrives. Franklin, Laconia, Concord and Keene have historic review procedures before demolition, as do Historic Districts in Canterbury, Gilmanton, Gilford and Sanbornton.
Ballot Question 2 simply asks for a little time — five to 45 business days maximum — if a building is 50 years old or more, visible from public right of way or public lands, and if the three member Heritage Commission Review Committee deems it historically significant, using state and federal criteria for Historic Register eligibility.
Ballot Question 38 seeks Heritage Fund support. Since 2005 the volunteer commission, operating on a $1,000 annual budget, has returned more than $5 of benefits for each $1 invested. The fund helps us match grants and develop other opportunities for Belmont. Projects have included energy-efficient lighting for the Mill and Sargent Park, historic signage, bandstand restoration, PlanNH charrette organization, marketing and creating a few new traditions for citizens of all ages.
Twelve years ago the Planning Board adopted a Master Plan vision "...to plan for its future while protecting its past..." We believe our work and partnerships help meet this goal -- and respectfully request support on March 11 voting day.
Wallace P. Rhodes
Heritage Commission Chairman 2004-12,
Belmont Historical Society Founding Member & President
Heritage Commission Chairman 2012-2014