Demolition of historic properties: What can residents do?

To the Editor:
Milford residents have been dismayed by the growing number of historic properties sprayed with orange paint spelling "demolition.”

In many cases the marking of these properties occurs even before an application of "Intent to Demolish" has been filed with the building department.

The Milford Preservation Trust recently addressed this problem at the May Board of Aldermen meeting.

Quite apart from the blight aspect, orange paint spelling demolition misleads neighbors: They reasonably conclude demolition is imminent and that they are powerless to stop it.

In fact, when an "Intent to Demolish" application is filed, copies of that application are sent to the city historian, The Milford Preservation Trust and the Milford Historical Society.

If the city historian concludes that the property is historically or architecturally significant, he or she has the power to invoke the demolition delay ordinance, which in Milford is 120 days. Some municipalities have a 180-day demolition delay.

The purpose of the delay is to try to find a prudent and feasible alternative to demolition.

For example, the homeowner might list the property on the Historic Properties Exchange — there are many people looking to purchase historic properties to restore and to cherish.

Milford has recently adopted an Historic Preservation Ordinance, which homeowners may avail themselves of.

This ordinance can help protect historic homes not located in our two local historic districts.

In this process, the homeowner agrees to have their historic property listed on the State and/or National Register of Historic Places and in so doing ensures that their house will have a layer of protection and will thwart an inappropriate demolition or development.

The intersection of historic properties and the 8-30g conundrum (affordable housing) is the topic of another letter and then some.

A homeowner, however, must want the protection — no city official or preservation entity such as the Milford Preservation Trust or the Milford Historical Society can force it.

In the United States personal property rights trump all and are unassailable.

MPT has circulated letters to homeowners of historic homes outside our local historic districts encouraging them to list their property.

There are many fine historic homes on Golden Hill Street, Pearl Hill Street, Hill Street, Gulf Street and others.

If a homeowner agrees to list their property the Milford Preservation Trust is willing and able to walk them through the process; tax credits for historic homes is one benefit.

Finally, though, it is up to residents to take this important step: Only this way Milford can prevent further destruction of its outstanding trove of 17th and 18th century houses.

We are losing them at an alarming rate and it threatens the very historic core of Milford.

Michele Kramer

Milford Preservation Trust