To the editor: In her letter, Ms. Rayport’s accusations regarding the elected members of the HDC, as “colluding” in various ways to give an applicant the outcome they desire, in favor of historic preservation, are shocking. To imply that the members of the HDC don’t care about preserving Nantucket’s architecture is not only inaccurate, but also completely false. I have collaborated with Ms. Rayport on preservation issues in the past and considered us colleagues and in support of the same ideals. As a former member of the Historical Commission herself, I believe she knows the amount of time that most commissioners take to review applications prior to the meetings.
The HDC’s charge is not to veto every proposal that comes before us, there is a difference between historical purism and our mission according to the Special Act. Following the Secretary of Interior’s guide regarding preservation it is quite clear that changes can and will be made to historic houses. If those changes are deemed appropriate- as a regulatory board, we can issue a Certificate of Appropriateness.
Our review of applications, especially historic structures, is based on the information given to us when the project is being presented by an applicant, as well as input from the Preservation Planner. The surveys that HDC relies on for decision making are outdated and vague. Luckily, these are in the process of getting updated in small segments over time by a preservation group.
We, commissioners base our decisions as a group through a democratic process, and as individuals we each analyze the purported “facts” given to us and then move a project with a majority vote system. Our evaluation is only as good as the information we are given at the time of deliberation. Perhaps a standardized process to legitimize the information given to us will result from this incident and we will be able to get complete historical information available at one time and in a consistent manner. Until now, it has been the policy of this board to trust the applicant is providing information and as comprehensive as what can be found on its subject structure. The information provided by the opponents came to light after the fact and did not sway the majority vote. It told an interesting tale of structures from the same era that may have been connected in some way, but it was not strong enough to sway a vote for an alternate outcome. In the end a decision was made to maintain a small portion of the structure based on the applicant’s findings which were compelling and seemed viable, showing it as the original structure.
Houses have been added on to, torn down and moved throughout the history of the Island and will continue to be going forward...that is the nature of people-to change things on property that they purchase and own, because everyone’s needs are always different. Anyone who has participated in the HDC process as an applicant or as a member of the Board will attest that it is not a straight forward avenue or black and white picture, and many factors play into the Boards consensus on a vote.
We don’t benefit from developers or homeowners in any way and someone to infer that we do is malicious and mean spirited. We get nothing but criticism for trying to keep Nantucket intact from all the modernizations that are being forced upon us, from many entities, including government policies.
I wish I didn’t care, because I would have lots more free time to enjoy my life and the place, I love with all my soul. We don’t need adversaries, we need allies.