By Sandra Zunino
Strolling through Easton’s Historic District is like taking a walk back in time. But how does the town preserve that visual sense of history?
Careful planning is the answer, along with the commitment of the Easton Historic District Commission. Formed in 1979, the Commission’s purpose is to ensure that the historical part of Easton maintains the visual and architectural integrity of a historical town. On the second and fourth Monday of every month, the Easton Historic District Commission meets at 6:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers of the Town Office building and reviews applications for any changes within the town that might affect Easton’s historic appearance.
Historic architecture in Easton dates back to the Federalist period, with many Victorian influences. Because a degree of pertinent expertise is required, the commission members must meet a certain criteria for membership, explains Chairman Roger Bollman. Knowledge about architectural history, archeology, anthropology, conservation, landscaping, historic preservation, urban design and other relevant topics is helpful for an effective commission.
When applicants want to make a change to their property, such as add a fence or addition, there are specific guidelines to follow. The Historic District Guidelines can be found at www.town-eastonmd.com. An applicant will also submit details of how the finished project will appear, location on the property, building materials, etc.
The staff at the Town of Easton Planning Department makes up the agenda before each meeting and screens the applications to ensure all the essential information has been submitted.
“Having a complete application saves everyone time in the long run,” says Roger. Once the commission reviews the application, five of the seven commissioners must vote in its favor for approval.
“We only look at the exterior of the property,” explains Roger. This includes things like tearing down or erecting a porch, a garage addition, or adding or removing structural landscape items such as brick retaining walls. Even removing a significant historical tree might be something the commission needs to vote upon. While some historic districts dictate paint color, the Easton Commission does not.
“We try our best to make the procedure as painless as possible,” says Roger. Decisions for approval or denial are not random. The commission relies on zoning ordinances and the guidelines to make their verdict. The Historical District Guidelines were prepared by a professor of historic preservation at Maryland’s Goucher College and were instituted in 2002, according to Roger. A third tool commissioners rely upon is the Secretary of Interior standards. “These are 10 national standards put in place by the National Park Service, appointed by the Secretary of the Interior,” Roger explains.
Mayor Robert C. Willey appoints the seven members of the commission. Those appointments are voted on and confirmed by the Easton Town Council. Commissioners serve on a voluntary basis for a term of three years and can be re-appointed by the Mayor indefinitely. Roger is in his 3rd term and has been chairman since 2004.
“We try to address our applicants in a nice and professional manner,” says Roger, “even when we must decline a request or make suggestion.”
For more information about the duties of the Easton Historic District Commission, visit www.town-eastonmd.com and read Article 7, under Members.