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August 29, 2013

Proposed historic district divides community

There was tension at the Springfield Community Center on Tuesday night as community members asked questions, made comments and expressed concerns about a proposed historic district.

There has been a debate about whether to gain the status of a historical district for the portion of the town of Springfield that falls in the Springfield Patent. According to National Register Coordinator from the State Historical Preservation Office Kathleen LaFrank, the historical significance of the town dates back to 1741 when a patent was awarded to nine people and the land divided into 68 lots. There is a pattern of farms, treelines and fields that have been preserved, she said.

In addition to this farmland, LaFrank said, the proposed historic district includes 65 farms, the turnpike hamlet, the industrial hamlet of Springfield Center and two residential hamlets.

“What we have is more than 200 years of history that together makes up a historic district,” she explained. “The grouping tells us more than any one building could tell us itself.”

Many local residents agree with the proposal while others ask why fix what isn’t broken. Some wanted to know whether there would be restrictions on private property owners.

LaFrank said listing on the national and state registers affords properties a measure of protection from the effects of federal- and or state-sponsored or -assisted projects. She said unless one is using state or federal money or taking advantage of a tax credit program, it does not regulate what individuals can do to their property. This includes painting, siding, selling or even demolishing a building or house, she added.

There are some benefits that come along with being registered, according to LaFrank. For example, she said local planners will know about it and should take it into consideration in the planning process; however, they do not have to.

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