News Feature

Castine
Originally published in Castine Patriot, July 10, 2014
Historic preservation commission undergoes a “changing of the guard”

by Anne Berleant

The annual meeting of the Castine Historic Preservation Commission on July 1 was just long enough to welcome two new members and elect officers for the coming year in a “changing of the guard,” as Chairman Jimmy Goodson described it seconds before the meeting was called to order.

Goodson was stepping down, with his new position as town manager beginning on July 7. Eileen Morrison was also leaving with the end of her term.

“Who’s going to lead the charge?” asked Goodson.

In the end, and after an effort led by member Kay Hightower to share chairman duties on a rotating basis, Hightower was named chairman, with new member W.G. Sayre as vice chairman. Tom Mason agreed to continue as secretary.

“At the end of the day, we’re all going to have a piece of it,” said Hightower, who as chairman may delegate commission tasks.

The historic preservation ordinance requires the three offices be filled, Goodson pointed out. Mason noted the importance of the chairman as a public point of contact for the commission.

The commission also welcomed Peter Cooperdock as an ex officio associate member, with selectmen set to approve his nomination at its next meeting.

Cooperdock, a new resident to Castine who divides his time with New Hampshire, is a soil scientist. His appointment to a one-year term was recommended by past president Ann Miller.

“I’m interested in the historic qualities of the town,” Cooperdock said. (Cooperdock also writes “Outside Insights,” a nature column for the Castine Patriot.)

Sayre has “always appreciated historic places,” and has done restoration work on an early 1800s Revival house and a late 1800s Victorian, he told the commission.

With no applications to consider, Goodson explained the role of the commission to its new members. The “biggest piece” is to “do the research required to have an informed discussion” of applications before the commission.

The committee “doesn’t meet just to meet,” Goodson said, but does so only when there are applications to consider. With a small historic district, few applications come before the commission, Goodson said, “but the applications we receive are important.”

The tools of the commission are the “ordinance which guides us,” Goodson said, The Castine Historic Preservation Design Manual and national standards and guidelines for the preservation, treatment and renovation as adopted by federal statute.

The historic preservation ordinance was adopted in 2006, but voters have thrice defeated attempts by the commission to enlarge the historic district. In 2006, citizens voted 121-80 against expanding the district to cover all of on-neck, but a second effort in 2012 failed by only two votes. In 2008, a proposed amendment that would have made all of Castine an historic district failed 428-327.

The historic district was first established in 1995. It includes nearly all of Main Street and portions of Court, Pleasant and Perkins streets. (For a complete description of the historic district, see §6.1 of the ordinance at castine.me.us.)

In 2001, voters squashed an article proposing to abolish the district by a 2-1 margin.

“If we’re looking forward and if Ann [Miller] comes back, there’ll be another push to expand,” Goodson said. Miller will be eligible to rejoin the commission in June 2015, although she has not agreed to do so.

If the district is expanded, Goodson pointed out, “there will be more applications.”