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September 12, 2013

Town split by push for historic status

Supporters of designating a portion of the Town of Springfield a historic district said Tuesday they remain optimistic their effort will get state approval — even though the majority of the town board and a significant number of residents have signaled their opposition.

Noel Dries, president of the Springfield Historic Society, said he is hoping the application for the designation, filed with the State Historical Preservation Office, hasn’t lost steam after the Springfield Town Board reversed its earlier support for the status and now opposes it.

“We would rather not go around the town board,” Dries said in an interview. “We would rather have their support. But currently we are proceeding with the nomination.”

Springfield resident Ken Ostrander, one of the prime opponents of the historic designation, said the more people find out about the consequences of getting the status, the more they are willing to fight the proposal.

“We don’t want to end up like Cooperstown,” said Ostrander, noting that people opposed to the historic designation proposal turned up at Monday night’s town board meeting. He said some are so incensed that there was even talk of banning the local Historic Society from using the community center for its meetings.

Supporters of the historic designation argue comparisons with Cooperstown’s status is unfair and misleading because a local ordinance is in effect in Cooperstown, which includes rigorous preservation standards for ensuring buildings maintain their historic features. The supporters say they want no such ordinance for Springfield.

In order to shoot down the proposal, a majority of the nearly 500 owners of properties in the designated area would have to signal they oppose the historic status. Those favoring it do not have to indicate where they stand, noted Ostrander, who said the designation process is unfair to those who disagree with it.

Supporters of historic designation say the status can increase property values and yield special tax credits for property owners. Springfield’s historical importance dates back to 1741.

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