Westfield council considers establishing historic preservation commission


Several Westfield residents spoke against the proposal of a local historic preservation commission during the March 28 Westfield City Council meeting.

Indiana Landmarks Association Vice President of Preservation Services Mark Dollase presented the proposal, calling it an avenue to protect historic buildings or districts in the future.

State Road 32 is going through a community road-widening project, and it is going to have what is called an adverse effect as designed on the south side of State Road 32, particularly as it goes through the downtown historic district,” Dollase said.

The downtown historic district is on the National Register of Historic Place. Although the register doesn’t provide protection from construction projects, a section in the document states any time federal or state funds are involved in projects affecting one of the places on the register, a review must be completed on how the project affects historic resources.

“Four buildings on the south side of State Road 32 are going to be adversely impacted by the project, so as a result, the city and (the Indiana Dept. of Transportation) and the Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources came up with a document called a memorandum of agreement between them that they have heard from the public about the concerns and loss of historic buildings,” Dollase said. “They made the decision for the project to move forward but develop these mitigations that would lessen the effect of the impact on the overall historic district.”

If approved, the commission would look at future designs of structures in the historic district to preserve a low-scale design appearance. It also would examine other areas or properties within the community with historic significance that should be recognized and protected. The commission reviews projects under construction

“These areas are ever-evolving, ever-changing. and it’s nice to have a process around them to protect the things that have real value,” Dollase said.

Many residents, however, voiced concern that a historic commission might result in government overreach. The commission could define historic districts, receive funds to purchase or hold real and personal property and have power to sell, lease or rent those properties. Residents’ concerns include what would be the funding source for the commission and how much power it would have to approve or decline aesthetic changes to homes within the historic district.

The council was scheduled to vote on the ordinance at its April 11 meeting. For more, visit westfield.in.gov.