Even though the Historic District Committee election is almost always a snoozer, we thought this year was going to be different. We were wrong.
With all the attention the committee attracted this year—most of it quite critical—we were surprised how uneventful the election turned out.
It all started back in March when the committee battled against a Sandwich Village homeowner’s wishes to put synthetic shingles on her 300-year-old home.
Committee members argued long and hard against the proposal. The discussion stretched over several meetings and drew crowds of people, most siding with the homeowner.
In the end, after many heated discussions, one deadlock vote, an appeal to the regional historic board, and even a few tears, the committee granted its approval—albeit reluctantly—for the polymer siding.
The brouhaha dredged up a lot of ill-will. Critics called the historic committee subjective and unfair. They said the committee was riding tall on its historic high-horse, imposing difficult and costly design requirements on homeowners within the district.
The events even caught the attention of the board of selectmen, who discussed briefly the board’s options for removing members from the historic group. The discussion went nowhere.
In September, the committee was thrust into the not-so-limelight again when it began its review of the redesigned zipline planned at Heritage Museums & Gardens.
These discussions also drew a large crowd and generated some spirited debate.
When the committee finally voted to approve the plans, some of Heritage’s neighbors were enraged.
More accusations of unfairness and even foul play were lobbed like hand grenades at the committee.
A lawsuit is now pending in Barnstable District Court that calls into question the fairness of the committee’s decision.
With all this happening in the nine months leading up to the committee election—an election that could have brought two new members to the historic committee—we expected some sort of organized effort to bring new blood to the board.
The two candidates who ran unopposed for the seats are not newcomers in the least.
It’s anyone’s guess if this was because of voter apathy or evidence that those folks who complained so vehemently this year were only a vocal minority.
Perhaps, just perhaps, the vast majority of the homeowners within the town’s historic district are okay with the way things are.