NENA Punts at Historic Preservation Meeting

NENA Board Member Carlos Coto missed a chance to stand up for NENA’s members and for historic preservation in the North End at yesterday’s Historic Preservation Commission meeting. Meeting video here, Coto at 1:13.

In his testimony on behalf of NENA, Coto said: “We agree with the staff report. The report says that the house is a non-contributing structure. It doesn’t matter how much we like it, it’s a non-contributing structure….We believe….the homeowner has every right to alter it. The homeowner has gone above and beyond, moving the canal…the neighbor has gone above and beyond and should not be penalized….”

BUT… The “non-contributing” status is based on a survey from 1978, before historic guidelines were in place. This homeowner had 10 trees removed to accommodate a new structure, with no permit. A nearby neighbor testified that the house is not “dilapidated” as stipulated by the owner.

It’s not clear if or how Coto engaged neighbors before this meeting or how their views were incorporated in his testimony. Long-time observers had expressed concerns in social media. Others were talking afterward.

Coto’s support for owner rights was surprising based on his own vocal opposition to owner rights in the recent TRICA and Franklin House questions. TRICA happens to be across the street from his own home.

Trees cleared without a permit. Canal shift proposed.

Read the Plan: A History of Self-Organization!

The first draft of the North End Neighborhood Plan is out now for your review and survey commenting until March 19. It’ll help drive the things you’ll celebrate or complain about for years to come..

This story from its 30-page history section is a timely testament to what we’re showcasing here at self-organization!

…Under the headline, “Park Proposal is Laid Before the Council,” the newspaper in May 1914 reported that 57 property owners had asked the city council “to secure for a park a two-block tract of land” situated in Elm Grove addition. They pointed out that three-fourths of the property “is covered with elm trees at the present time.”

A year before, the city had rejected an offer to buy the park for $10,000, but since then land sales and prices had been falling, so now might be a better time. Walter Pierce, whose syndicate had platted the subdivision, evidently intended these two blocks for a park, as he had provided toilets, swings, benches, and fencing–and planted the trees. The city council put the matter away to study, but the price must not have been sweet enough.

Nevertheless, a few weeks later, a social note in the paper said that the Ladies Aid of Emmanuel Methodist church were having their picnic “in Elm Grove” on Wednesday afternoon. It was a park. Another women’s group, the Women’s Relief Corps of the GAR, formally opened the park with a picnic in July 1915. The city purchased the land in 1920 and then annexed the two blocks into the city limits in 1922.

It is a good place for picnics. And so it went. A tradition of neighbors acting together was by no means restricted to the city’s north additions, and the practice of organizing neighbors to get something accomplished persisted into the next two centuries.