Falmouth’s community preservation committee has been asked to consider the idea of allowing private homeowners to tap into Community Preservation Act funds to restore or preserve their historic homes.
The concept has merit. It was brought forward earlier this month by that town’s historical commission chairman, Edward Haddad.
“The majority of historic properties in town are in private hands,” Mr. Haddad said. And as private property, they are ineligible for preservation funds under current policy. He asked the committee to consider a change to that policy.
Here in Sandwich, almost all—we would venture to guess maybe even 99 percent—of historic structures are privately owned.
Upkeep on these old buildings can be costly, especially if done right. And these owners are held to a higher standard by the historic district committee. The committee members are not going to let the owner of a historic home install off-the-shelf vinyl replacement windows from Home Depot. No, they are going to want authentic wooden six-pane over six-pane windows, which are a special order. And that’s just the windows. There’s also the doors, siding, and roofing.
It gets very expensive, very quickly.
Last month, Yvonne Anderson won a hard-fought, bitter battle to install polymer shingles on her 300-year-old home in Sandwich Village.
The reason she wanted the polymer shingles was because wood siding was getting too costly and too time-consuming to maintain on her grand old home.
In presenting his idea to Falmouth’s committee about allowing private access to preservation funding, Mr. Haddad said homeowners would need to go through the same qualification process as any other community preservation committee applicant.
He said the committee could create strict guidelines for these applicants, such as requiring any homeowner who accepts community preservation funds to place a preservation restriction on their property.
Requiring a homeowner to agree to a preservation restriction on their property to qualify for preservation funds will help make sure that only folks who are truly serious about historic preservation will apply.
“The intention is to improve the town and improve the streetscape,” Mr. Haddad said. “The intention is not to give a homeowner $200,000 to turn their home into a $1 million home and sell it.”
He said many community preservation committees fund privately owned historic preservation projects. He specifically cited Cambridge as an example.
Community Preservation Act funds can only be used for three purposes: preserving open space, creating community housing, and historic preservation.
With so much of the town’s history in private hands, it makes sense to consider opening the door—carefully, and just a bit—to private access to these funds.