Former city historian wants zone change in historic district

To the Editor:

Back in 2001, when the Milford Planning and Zoning Board adopted the Plan of Conservation and Development, Prospect Street was put into the Milford Center Design District (MCDD). I'm not sure why this was done, but it was. It was probably with an eye toward expanding Milford's business district. The problem is, Prospect Street from Cherry Street to the railroad is part of the River Park National Register Historic District.

The residents of Prospect Street were not aware of this zone change, much less its implications. Probably they should have been, but they were not. It was a few years later that Smith/Craft announced plans for building an apartment complex which included the demolition of a historic house on the street. The residents protested, and even brought suit, but nothing could be done. The street was zoned that way.

Since that time, I and members of the Milford Preservation Trust have requested that the street be taken out of the MCDD. A little over a year ago, I was granted an “informal hearing” before the Planning and Zoning Board. They listened respectfully but then did nothing. In the meantime, I and the Milford Preservation Trust became involved in fighting to save the Sanford-Bristol House on North Street.

Now it is a little over a year later and still nothing has been done. I was told a year ago that if I wanted to apply for a zone change there would be a $400 fee and then there would be various zoning complications which I did not understand. Back in 2001 when Prospect Street was put into the MCDD there was no fee and no hearing specific to this street. The change was just made. It could just as easily be taken out of the MCDD and put back the way it was if the PZB had the will.

While I was city historian I frequently got queries from people out-of-state who were visiting, asking where their original settler ancestors were buried. They had been buried in the back garden of the Rev. Peter Prudden, Milford's first minister. Prudden's home lot was on present-day Prospect Street. The burials were done without gravestones because the Puritans considered them to be vanity.

This year, with Milford's 375th anniversary upon us, many people will be visiting and asking for the burial site of their ancestors. Also, a number of Peter Prudden's descendants will be here. As the house where Prudden's home lot was located is vulnerable to demolition to be replaced by a commercial structure, as are others on the street, I will have to tell them to take a good look, because if they come back again in a few years there may well be a store with an asphalt parking lot on the site. This should not happen.

I have to ask, do the people of Milford care? If you do, please let your PZB representative know.

Richard N. Platt, Jr.