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I Support the Polish Heritage Historic District

Last night the City Council
Ordinance Committee voted 4-1 (Alexander, Bartley, Lisi and Vacon –yea,
Chateauneuf- nay) for the creation of a Polish Heritage Historic District
(PHHD). The full City Council will have an opportunity to vote on its adoption
at our April 7 meeting and will require the vote of 10 councilors. I want to
list some key facts that went into my decision to support the District. If you
find that you agree with these points, I urge you to call your City Councilors
and ask them to support the district as well.

1.       The PHHD guidelines are not overly
restrictive or burdensome for property owners.

The PHHD guidelines mimic the
ordinances that create and define the Fairfield Ave. Historic District and in
many cases are more relaxed because the PHHD has fewer design features to maintain than a
residential neighborhood. The
guidelines apply ONLY to modifications or improvements to EXTERNAL architectural
features that are in public view from a public way.

You can see the guidelines here (Sec.
18-105(2) Local Historic District Guidelines- Polish Heritage Historic District)
and a map of the district here.
2.       The PHHD does not prohibit the demolition,
transfer, or sale of the property.
Property owners in the PHHD may freely sell or transfer their properties WITHOUT the involvement of the district Commission.
The property owners may demolish properties
in the Historic District, but must first go through a review process and obtain
a certificate from the PHHD Commission. (Demolition of these properties may also trigger a demolition delay that is independent of the establishment of the PHHD)
3.       The PHHD does not require or compel
property owners to make any improvements to or rehabilitate their property at
Property owners included in the PHHD are not forced
to make any improvements, upgrades or modifications to either the interior or
exterior of their properties. The guidelines are only triggered if a property
owner wishes to make changes or modifications to the exterior architectural features
that may be viewed from a public way, in which case a certificate must be
obtained from the PHHD Commission. As listed above, the guidelines may require
property owners to use specific materials or design features when modifying the
external architectural features of their properties.
There are three different certificates that
property owners may obtain from the PHHD Commission that allow them to proceed
with external improvements or modifications:
of Appropriateness:
states that the improvements/modifications sought fall
within the jurisdiction of the PHHD and that they meet the stated guidelines.
The PHHD Commission may in this case impose certain restrictions or limitations
to help the proposed alterations meet the guidelines.
of Nonapplicability:
states that the improvements/modifications sought do
not trigger the PHHD guidelines
of Hardship:
states that the applicant has demonstrated that the
improvements/modifications sought bear some hardship, financial or otherwise,
if they were to meet the PHHD guidelines.
4.       This is not about picking ethnic “winners”
and “losers.”
The creation of the PHHD was initiated by a
petition of Holyoke residents that wish to celebrate and honor the history and
legacy of the Polish community that lived in this area years ago. It is the
first petition of its kind to come before the City Council and as the economic
benefits of such districts have been clearly demonstrated by a wealth of
literature, I would happily support the creation of other similar districts
that call attention to our city’s rich cultural history and ethnic diversity.
5.       The PHHD is a tool for neighborhood
preservation and economic revitalization.
The City of Holyoke has been making great strides in
advancing downtown economic development and investment. The creation of the
PHHD, in setting out architectural guidelines and design standards, is simply
another tool that assists in the neighborhood preservation and economic
revitalization of our urban core.
Councilors in support of the PHHD: Alexander, Bartley, Lebron-Martinez,
Lisi, Soto, Vacon, Valentin
Councilors in opposition to the PHHD: Chateauneuf, Tallman
Councilors who have not expressed a firm position on the
Bresnahan: 230-9351
Greaney: 534-5749
Jourdain: 538-5519
Leahy: 535-3353
McGee: 534-1764
McGiverin: 536-6557

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