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Council urges mayor to appoint historical review commission

from The Sun, August 7-13, 2009
by Amiee Henderson, Staff Writer, [email protected]

HOLYOKE – The City Council voted at Tuesday’s meeting to urge Mayor Michael J. Sullivan to appoint at least five people to serve on a review commission for the recently established historical district on Fairfield Avenue.

City Councilor At-Large Rebecca Lisi said she filed the order after residents on the street expressed concern over the issue.

“They were getting no response from the mayor’s office,” said Lisi. “And, they were very concerned that building permits were being issued for that block with no historic review commission to look at them.”

Lisi said the residents spent a lot of time to see that the neighborhood became a historical district, and they don’t want to see that go to waste.

“There was a lot of work done to establish what the area would look like and what the flavor of the neighborhood would be historically speaking, and without a commission those are not being recognized,” said Lisi.

At Tuesday’s meeting Lisi explained to fellow councilors that after the establishment of the historical section on Fairfield Avenue a review commission should have been appointed according to Massachusetts General Laws (MGL).

“On December 18, 2007 we as a council unanimously voted to create a historical district, and under Massachusetts General Laws the mayor has to appoint at least five, but up to seven, to a serve on a review commission,” said Lisi. “I want to make sure the historical codes are being met because any permit that the building commissioner issues may be putting the city at risk of violation.”

Lisi cited multiple MGS chapters and sections which layout rules for historical districts, but MGL Chapter 40C: Section 4, “Study committees; commissions; establishment; membership; terms; vacancies; compensation; officers” discusses the appointment of said commission.

“Whenever an historic district is established as provided in section three an historic district commission shall be established,” reads the MGL. “An historic district commission shall be appointed in a city by the mayor…the members of the historic district commission shall include one or more residents of or owners of property in an historic district to be administered by the commission.”

At the council’s Dec. 18, 2007 meeting it voted unanimously on an ordinance granting the historical section on Fairfield Avenue. The ordinance states that the commission board would be composed of seven members, allowing two seats for outside professionals (an architect and a realtor). The remaining seats would be filled by residents. Councilor John J. O’Neill also made an amendment to the ordinance that night to include a clause under the “commission” section that read, “at all times no less than five members of the board be residents of Holyoke.”

Lisi said residents “feel slighted” for the lack of response from the mayor to appoint a board seeing historic preservation is something the community and residents are interested in.

“After receiving a blessing from the mayor and city council to go forward with the program, residents feel slighted that it hasn’t gone anywhere,” said Lisi.

As of press time, Mayor Sullivan was unavailable for comment.

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