City of Somerville

Agenda Item
Ordinance Ordained.
Mar 24, 2011 7:00 PM

Requesting an amendment to the Local Historic District Map to create 3 new Districts (Thurston-Walnut, Pearl, and 9 Brastow) and add 6 properties to these Districts, and to add 5 properties to existing Districts (Central-Atherton-Spring-Summer (CASS), Florence-Myrtle, Flint, and Prospect Hill) (Group D).


Department:Economic DevelopmentSponsors:
Category:Mayor's RequestPurposes:Ordinance

Official Text

To the Honorable Board:


Attached please find an ordinance adopting map amendments pursuant to the Historic District Ordinance, first adopted in 1985, which proposes to:  1) create three new LHDs (Thurston-Walnut, Pearl, and 9 Brastow) and add 6 properties to these districts; 2) expand 4 existing (or previously proposed) LHDs by adding 5 properties (Central-Atherton-Spring-Summer (CASS) (1 property), Florence-Myrtle (2 properties), Flint (1 property), and Prospect Hill (1 property).  These properties have been labeled as Group D:  1865-1873 for the purposes of review of the proposed expansion of LHDs.


The proposed map amendments fulfill an overriding goal of the municipal ordinance by offering critical protection to older buildings that are emblematic of our community’s cultural heritage.    The overall purpose of designating local historic districts is to make Somerville a more attractive and desirable place to live, work, and visit.  This can be promoted by officially recognizing the value of the City’s remaining historically and architecturally significant properties and helping to conserve them over the longer term.  We must also capitalize on our rich architectural heritage and appreciate the great economic value it brings to the community.  Preservation is a cornerstone of Smart Growth strategies and the Green Movement as it recognizes that it is better to save and enhance, rather than to demolish and build with cheaper and less durable materials. 


The buildings in this fourth grouping of properties are noteworthy because they were predominantly built at the time when Somerville was changing from a town to an incorporated city shortly following the end of the Civil War, and at time when the community was experiencing some prosperity.  The proposed LHDs are also striking because they provide a visually appealing cluster of historically significant houses that represent a variety of architectural styles in many different neighborhoods of Somerville - East Somerville, Prospect Hill, Spring Hill, and Winter Hill. 


Designation of these historic districts will not change the ownership or curtail the use of these properties.  Rather it will help preserve their key exterior architectural features, and discourage the use of incompatible materials that detract from the historical character of the area.  It is important to note that historic districts and designation does not prevent change from occurring, nor does it prevent new development.  The intent of designation is to ensure that improvements and additions are reviewed in the context of the district and that there is thoughtful consideration of change.  The review only applies to exterior architectural features that are publicly visible. 


The attached package of map amendments and supporting survey forms and other documentation is the culmination of four and a half years of work by the City’s Historic Preservation Commission.  I encourage your Honorable Board to view these amendments as a way to preserve significant vestiges of our past while we continue to move ahead seeking new growth and development for the future well-being of our community.


Staff from the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development will be available to respond to any questions you may have.




Joseph A. Curtatone


Meeting History

Nov 9, 2010 7:00 PM Video Board of Aldermen Regular Meeting
Feb 22, 2011 7:00 PM  Legislative Matters Committee Committee Meeting
draft Draft

The Committee met in Joint Session with the Historic Preservation Commission to conduct a Public Hearing on this matter.

The public hearing was open.

- John Murray spoke and submitted a letter in favor of historic designation for his home at 50 Sargent Avenue.

- Alan Bingham spoke in favor of the proposal.

- Domenic Piccione, of Winchester, spoke in favor of historic designation for 75 Florence Street.

- Diane Topliffe, the owner of 75 Florence Street, spoke against historic designation for her home.

The public hearing was closed. The record will remain open until the close of business on February 25, 2011 to receive written comments. This item is scheduled to be discussed by the committee at its meeting on March 15. 2011.

Mar 15, 2011 7:00 PM  Legislative Matters Committee Committee Meeting
draft Draft

The committee reviewed comments from homeowners regarding the designations of their properties and Chairman Taylor requested that the committee be provided with a list of all properties to be designated as historic.

Chairman Taylor’s motion that the item be approved for all properties except those whose owners are not in favor of the historic designation, was approved. Those properties not approved will remain in committee until the Ward Aldermen have contacted the owners of said properties. (The property at 75 Florence Street is therefore severed from this proposal.)

Mar 24, 2011 7:00 PM Video Board of Aldermen Regular Meeting

ORDAINED AS AMENDED: 75 Florence Street is severed and returned to Committee as #191045.

AYES:John M. Connolly, Dennis M. Sullivan, William A. White Jr., William M. Roche, Maryann M. Heuston, Thomas F. Taylor, Sean T. O’Donovan, Rebekah L. Gewirtz, Robert C. Trane
ABSENT:Bruce M. Desmond, Walter F. Pero