Stafford Considers Historic Preservation Ordinance

By VICTORIA FORD | May 01, 2019
Courtesy of: Stafford Historical Society EYE ON THE PAST: Since the 1960s, nearly one-third of the town’s oldest structures have been lost, including the old Stafford General Store. Tim Hart hopes the town halts that trend.

Manahawkin — Stafford Township’s historic integrity has been largely lost, according to local and county historian Tim Hart, and what remains of the town’s historic fabric is threatened by development unless protected by historic preservation ordinance. It’s an issue the Stafford Township Historical Commission has been working on since 1990, he said. Having documented the loss of over 28 percent of historic structures identified in past inventories, the commission emphasizes the danger of reaching a tipping point and subsequent loss of identity and economic value for the entire township.

The commission has created a landmark list, which Hart outlined in a PowerPoint he presented to town officials last month. A preliminary draft of an ordinance is currently being considered.

A municipal ordinance would be “more carrot than stick,” Hart said, e.g. incentivizing preservation with lower taxes. It would not require or prohibit any particular architectural style, as explained in the draft of the proposed ordinance. “Rather, its purpose is to preserve the past by making the past compatible with and relevant to the present.” The idea is not to regulate down to the color or other specific details for owners of historic sites, but to prevent demolition.

“We don’t want to lose the structure,” Hart said.

Additions would be allowed, for example, so long as they’re done in a sympathetic way. Part of the proposed ordinance might institute a waiting period from the time of a demolition permit application, to allow for alternatives to be explored.

The benefit to other property owners is the overall value of homes increases when a town has an intact historic fabric, he said. Other benefits are quality of life and pride of place; economic value in increased tax ratables and revitalized historic neighborhoods; and environmental sustainability.

Among other outcomes, the historic preservation ordinance would serve to encourage the continued use of historic landmarks and to facilitate their appropriate reuse; to foster civic pride in the built environment; to encourage beautification and private reinvestment; to discourage the unnecessary demolition of historic resources; to encourage the proper maintenance and preservation of historic settings and landscapes; to encourage appropriate alterations of historic landmarks; and to enhance the visual and aesthetic character, diversity, continuity and interest in the town.

Criteria for evaluation include significance in American history, i.e. architecture, archeology, engineering and culture, evident in landmarks that possess integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association; such that are associated with events involved in the broader patterns of history or with the lives of significant historical persons; such that “embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or represent the work of a master, or possess high artistic values, or represent a significant and distinguishable entity, or have yielded, or may be likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history.”

The list of landmarks is divided into iconic, protected and advisory structures. Stafford Township has approximately 14,760 tax parcels and 12,684 improved lots. The proposed ordinance would directly impact about nine icons, 127 protected and 31 advisory lots for a total of approximately 1.3 percent of all improved tax parcels.

An icon is perhaps already on, or eligible to be on, the National or New Jersey Register of Historic Places. An icon might be associated with the culture and history of Stafford Township in such a way that “one cannot imagine the town without this icon.” Icons appear on the town’s official afghan of historic sites, designed by Lillias Brescia.

Protected sites are found on the 1964, 1981 or 1991 inventory lists, identified with the culture and history of Stafford Township before 1950: Greek revival, farmhouse, two-bay, Victorian, Second Empire, early commercial.

Advisory describes a style that adds to the historic fabric of the town, including but not limited to foursquare and bungalow.

Parts of town not impacted are the neighborhoods of Beach Haven West, Village Harbour, Colony Lakes, Ocean Acres, Fawn Lakes, Perry Lake, Atlantic Hills, Deer Lake Park, and anything constructed after World War II. Styles that are not part of the historic profile are such as the Cape Cod, the ranch, the so-called millennial mansion, the classic lagoon home, and the CH Cranmer/Oliphant cottage.

— Victoria Ford

victoria@thesandpaper.net

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