Yarmouth Historic Preservation Committee members, from left, Sue Devine, Phil Bean, Bruce Butler, Greg Paxton and Ed Ashley, hope to help residents make educated decisions when it comes to changes to their historic homes. Contributed / Tom Bell

Yarmouth’s new Historic Preservation Committee just had its first meeting, but members are already advising homeowners about informed decisions they can make to preserve their historic homes and the town’s character.

The volunteer advisory committee assists local property owners who want advice on renovations that could negatively impact the historic character of their buildings. The committee can also make recommendations to the Yarmouth Planning Board when the board is involved in large renovation projects, but it has no decision-making power.

“I’ve lived in Yarmouth for 33 years and it seems like a lot of the changes lately have been really fast and furious,” committee member Sue Devine said. “It became important to me to get involved to make sure that some of these places and buildings don’t go by the wayside.”

The committee recently agreed with a Lafayette Street homeowner who wanted to replace French doors on a converted garage with windows. Committee members felt windows would complement the original home more than French doors and not impact the building’s historical integrity. They based their decision on Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties set by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

The committee was formed after the Town Council adopted a Historic Preservation Advisory Ordinance last year “to identify and preserve sites with historic, cultural, architectural, and archeological significance and to preserve the historic character of the Town,” according to town documents.

All five members of the committee have experience in architecture and historic preservation.


Committee Chairperson Greg Paxton was the executive director of Maine Preservation, a statewide nonprofit historic preservation, for 13 years. Vice Chairperson Bruce Butler is a self-employed architect. Other members include architect Phil Bean, retired attorney Ed Ashley and Devine.

Paxton said rehabilitation of any building, especially historic buildings, can be complicated and the committee simply wants to help walk residents through their options when it comes to projects on their homes.

“I think it would be great if this committee is really an advocate for good rehabilitation projects. That often saves people money, too,” Paxton said. “If you rip out something, you have to haul it to the dump, buy new materials, bring them on-site, and redirect them. Part of your floor is rotten; why replace the whole floor, like people often do, when you can repair that little section?”

Encouraging residents to rehabilitate their historic buildings, rather than tear down part or all and start from scratch, also has a positive environmental impact, Paxton said, since shipping materials and building from scratch can leave a large carbon footprint.

The committee wants to be a resource for residents, Ashley said.

“We want people to know that we’re an asset, a resource, someone that you come to before they get too far into (a project),” he said. “We would like to have an impact before people are too far down the road so we can help them arrive at an appropriate result with regard to their property, the integrity of the house, the impact on the streetscape and the character of the village as a whole.”

An informational video on historical buildings in Yarmouth can be found at vimeo.com by searching “Yarmouth’s Architectural Legacy.”

The committee is not accepting new members but encourages residents to attend their meetings on the fourth Monday of every month at 6 p.m. in the community room in Town Hall.

To submit an application for assistance, residents should contact Yarmouth Code Enforcement Office Nick Ciarimboli at 846-2401 or [email protected]

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