Bath to meet about historic district guidelines

by Trish Rudder

A meeting between the Bath Town Council, the Ordinance Committee and the Historic Landmark Commission will meet on Monday, March 23 at 5:30 p.m. at the Ice House.

David Abruzzi, who heads up the Landmark commission, said on Monday the purpose of the meeting is to let the town council know what the design guidelines would be for a smaller district with protections.

“Roughly, according to the national registry, the town’s historic district includes the north end from the train depot to the south end at Johnsons Mill Road, and to Green Street on the east and Wilkes Street on the west,” Abruzzi said.

“The local district will definitely be smaller,” he said, “rather than the full national register one.”

The Landmark commission will then establish a working group to begin developing the boundaries of a limited historic district.

The recent change of ownership of the Star Theatre, an historic landmark in town, is an example of why protections are needed in the town. The owners could have torn it down, he said.

Landmarks presented design guidelines to the town council in 2017, but no guidelines were agreed upon.

Abruzzi said there he wanted to debunk the misconceptions about the guidelines, as follows:

“The Historic Landmark Commission (HLC) and the Design Guidelines do not require you to modify or “restore” your property to fit into a historical context. (In fact, it doesn’t require a property owner to do anything at all.);

The HLC and the Design Guidelines do not dictate what you can do inside your building;

The HLC and the Design Guidelines do not dictate what you can do on the portions of your property than cannot be seen from the street;

The HLC and the Design Guidelines do not require you to paint your building a certain color;

The HLC and the Design Guidelines do not require you to open up your property to the public.”

No decisions were made at the special meeting held on March 9 between the town council, Ordinance and Landmarks where Bath attorney Richard Gay explained the state’s rules on Chapter 8, Section 26A pertaining to Certificates of Appropriateness.

The town does not have an ordinance to offer a Certificate of Appropriateness, Gay said.

“The historic district deals with the exterior of the building. The Certificate of Appropriateness deals with architectural fixtures to be seen from the street,” Gay said.

Abruzzi said at the conclusion of the March 23 meeting, “the intent is to have the Town Council’s concurrence to accept the Design Guidelines in principle as the first in many steps to create a smaller local historic district with some protections.”