Redevelopment of the historic Shepley and Weld houses at 153 and 149 Main Street in Yarmouth into a 12-unit townhouse, is the type of historic preservation and reuse of historic assets the town wants to promote through creation of a new historic preservation ordinance. Kate Irish Collins / The Forecaster

YARMOUTH — Faced with losing its historic structures because of pressures from developers, the town is spending $17,000 to draft regulations protecting Yarmouth’s past.

The town wants a consultant to work with Director of Planning Alex Jaegerman and the Yarmouth Historic Resources Steering Committee to develop a set of protections specifically aimed at the central village area, which includes Main Street from Marina to Elm, along with various side streets.

Applications are due to Jaegerman by Oct. 8. The consultant will have until July 2020 to create the proposed ordinance.

Jaegerman said protecting Yarmouth’s historic architectural resources has “thus far relied on the honor system,” but that now presents an issue as new property owners might not share the same values.

This is especially true, Jaegerman said, ever since the town adopted a Comprehensive Plan update, which allows for a greater variety of mixed uses, density, adaptive reuse and new construction in the village.

It was the redevelopment of Brickyard Hollow, at 236 Main, and Goff’s Hardware, at 90 Main, which “significantly altered existing buildings without the benefit of a careful historic review,” that really pushed the town to create more stringent architectural design standards, according to Jaegerman.

But those rules, adopted in 2018, don’t “provide the equivalent level of review and control as would a historic preservation ordinance.”

Conversion of the former Goff’s Hardware, at 90 Main, into residential uses with a “starkly modern new first floor façade,” is one reason Yarmouth is now pursuing a historic preservation ordinance. Kate Irish Collins / The Forecaster

“The town of Yarmouth prides itself on its historic character as exemplified by the village center and historic homes, civic structures, and commercial buildings,” Jaegerman wrote in the Request for Proposals document. “(W) e are seeing renewed interest in local business establishments returning to Main Street,” which is one reason the historic preservation ordinance has become such a high priority.

The town will offset the cost of the project through several grants, including one in 2017 that paid for a survey of historic structures in the central village, and another to develop a historic preservation ordinance, as well as the boundaries of a new historic district.

In April 2018 the town adopted an interim Demolition Delay ordinance, Jaegerman said, which is meant to prohibit the demolition of properties either already on or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

There are 11 buildings in Yarmouth already listed on the historic register, including the First Parish Congregational Church at 135 Main, the Capt. Reuben Merrill House at 97 West Main, North Yarmouth Academy at 148 Main and the North Yarmouth and Freeport Baptist Meetinghouse at 25 Hillside.

Julie Ann Larry, director of advocacy at Greater Portland Landmarks, said many local communities already have or are exploring the adoption of historic preservation rules, including Portland, South Portland, Gorham, Scarborough, Biddeford and Saco.

She said studies show that communities that value and protect their historic assets retain many of the characteristics people say they are looking for when deciding where to live. She also said that historic preservation isn’t meant to prevent or stifle development.

Rules around historic preservation, Larry said, are about better managing and adapting to change while allowing communities to hang on to their identity.

This map outlines the area of Yarmouth’s central village that could be subject to a new historic preservation ordinance. Courtesy/ Town of Yarmouth

 

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