The study group is composed of seven members with a diverse professional background, including realtors, architects, and a member of the Duxbury Historical Commission. The group was formed in May to determine if there is a need for a historic district in town, and where that district would be.
The two main goals for the group right now is to research potential areas in town for a district and to also educate town residents about what a historic district is and what the limitations inside would be.
In regards to where to put the historic district, the group is still looking at the town as a whole, James Hartford, a construction professional and president of the study group said.
â€œThe group is in the very early stages of research and planning to determine if there is an area in town that bears merit to pursue as a district,â€ Hartford said.
The Massachusetts Historical Commission has detailed guidelines for proposing an area, Georgia Pye, a realtor and member of the committee said. â€œWeâ€™re starting from ground zero,â€ she said.
â€œIt wonâ€™t be people coming to tell you not to paint your house pink. Itâ€™s more to try and make sure that thereâ€™s some type of review process before something big is changed,â€ Pye said. If a historic district is established, a separate historical district commission will be formed, and residents of the district will have to adhere to district bylaws, she said.
For example, if a homeowner wants to make an addition to their home, they must submit an application to a historical district committee for approval prior to building. The committee will then hold a public hearing to determine if the changes are appropriate or not. If the application is approved, the owner will receive a certificate allowing it to begin construction. If the application is denied, the homeowner will be given suggestions on how to get the project approved.
If a historic district is approved by Town Meeting, there will be a set of bylaws and guidelines formed that will outline exactly what homeowners can and cannot do. Guidelines include everything from the shape of windows to installation of skylights to porch railings for a district in Hingham.
â€œWe want to identify for awarenessâ€™ sake what [the] historic assets [of the town] are,â€ Pye said.
The study group is doing the background research, Pye said. Study groups typically research for 18 months, according to the Massachusetts Historical Commission. The major part of that time is spent educating members of the town; however the group must complete a report on the historical value of the buildings or sites in the district, a basic map of the area, and what the boundaries will be.
In 1991, High Street was proposed as a historic district by the Historical Commission, yet failed to pass. While there was an interest in town, the district did not receive the two-thirds majority vote necessary to pass at the Town Meeting.
â€œThere was quite an extensive study done,â€ Tony Kelso, Town Historian said. However, there was enough opposition from the neighborhood to prevent the vote from passing, Kelso added.
â€œNobody likes things imposed on them, but if they know what itâ€™s about and are clued in and support it, then it has a better chance of passing,â€ Kelso said.
High Street is one of the most historic neighborhoods in town, Kelso added.
â€œItâ€™s a great old part of Duxbury,â€ Peter Smith, an architect and member of the study committee said. There are 17 historic houses on High Street, making it the most densely populated area of historic buildings in town.
â€œItâ€™s such a neat area,â€ Kelso said. â€œThere are not very fancy houses, but the houses come from a time when it was farmers and ordinary people and the architecture reflects that.â€ High Street was a working neighborhood, and that still holds true today, as there are cranberry bogs and farms in the neighborhood.
This is just one area that the study group will be looking at, Pye said.
Kelso recommended starting with a smaller area, then when everyone is comfortable with it, moving on to a â€œbigger fish,â€ such as the neighborhoods surrounding Washington Street. Washington Street itself would be a good idea, but it is a very large area and includes many houses, Kelso said.
The group will hold an open meeting on July 14 at 7 p.m. at the Senior Center. A representative from the Massachusetts Historical Commission will be present at the meeting to provide more information about forming a historical district in town. Members of the public are encouraged to attend.
â€œDuxbury is an amazingly historic town,â€ said Pye. â€œIf weâ€™re not careful, weâ€™re going to lose it.â€