Amherst Considers CPA Eligibility for Signs as Historic Preservation

As reported in The Republican this week, Amherst Town Counsel, Joel Bard, has given the town an opinion on eligibility of conducting preliminary design work at the Jones Library as well as creating a series of signs to identify homes of famous writers.  His opinion regarding the signs was particularly noteworthy.  The key to his opinion is that the signs will include protective language as well as historic information about the properties.  While this opinion is meant as official guidance only for the Town of Amherst, it may informally provide a helpful framework for others as well.   

Because the signs address preservation or restoration in addition to identifying the particular site, Bard believes they are eligible when the text pertains "to protective regulations and historic information."

"In my opinion, the protective language, i.e., the rules and regulations, can be said to serve the purpose of preserving the historic resources in question," the lawyer wrote. "I am aware that the use of CPA funds for these purposes is common, although we do not have a court ruling or other guidance establishing a clear rule on this use."

As Jonathan Tucker, Amherst Planning Director, pointed out in a recent conversation with me, the signs will help Amherst protect these historic resources for the future by listing what should and shouldn't be done to these important properties.  For example, the signs will point out if the property is in a National Register District, note that any alterations to the buildings may be subject to local, state, or federal law, and urge citizens to report any vandalism to police. 

Bard's analysis is an example of how to think through issues of CPA eligibility, which was the subject of my recent article, "Which Historic Projects Qualify for CPA Funding", published in the March 2009 issue of the Community Preservation Coalition's CPA Update.