Monday, January 13, 2014

Preserving Our Community

To All it May Concern:

When you picture Longmeadow, what do you see? Most likely you picture a tree-lined street blessed with a large number of antique houses.  It is a scene that has changed little over my 50 + years.  Our Longmeadow Street is picturesque and historic. This location, without a doubt, is one of the most beautiful streets in Western Massachusetts.

In our ever-changing world, it is vitally important to retain and preserve this iconic setting of our New England town.  It is part of what draws people to live here.  It is for this reason that I applaud the Select Board and citizens who created the historic district over 35 years ago.  This goes a long way to preserve our unique gem we call “The Green”.  It is the historic heart of our community.

It is critical however that the town must consider the threats to this green.  According to every realtor I have spoken with in town, it is difficult to find a buyer for an antique home.  Homeowners are looking for low maintenance and energy efficiency.  Antique homes often need restoration, renovation and updating.  Although I am very much in favor of the historic district, it must be acknowledged that it is costly to repair a home to the commission’s standards.  For example, the “Red House”, featured in the town shield, was required to use cedar shingles when replacing its roof even though the cost was over three times as much to have them.

If we want to encourage families to be stewards of the lovely old homes that grace our green, we need to consider approaches to make ownership more attractive.  These structures that are so important to the town are taxed at a higher level than similar homes in other parts of town rather than at a lower level.  These residents should be considered partners with the town in preserving our town’s assets.  I would like to see the town take steps to support their preservation or we could lose them as so many other communities in New England have done when a town no longer puts a value on conservation of historical architecture.  If we are not vigilant, these houses may slowly decay and we will lose the setting of our very unique Longmeadow Street. Any increase in traffic threatens the safety of school children biking and walking to Center School.

I hope this letter serves to open lines of communication between town residents and our leaders.  As we know, changes are coming to nearby Springfield that could alter our community forever.  This suburb is on the edge of Springfield and I-91 is located within our borders.  I urge our leaders to stay strong and keep a clear vision for Longmeadow’s future that protects and preserves our historic character.  This is especially important as we enter into a mitigation agreement with the proposed casino that may be built in the south end of the city, only 2-3 miles from here. The integrity of our Town Green is at stake.  Please consider all the factors as we move forward with the negotiation process.  Our ancestors who built this town will be proud of our efforts for future generations to come.

Thank you.

Betsy H. Port

Longmeadow Resident
Member of the Longmeadow Historical Society
Former Board Member of the Longmeadow Historical Commission