Published 4:00 am Sunday, May 27, 2007

By Staff
Often, their effort is a thankless job. But without them, Washington wouldn’t have the small-town charm with plenty of potential when it comes to appropriate development.
Washington’s Planning Board and Historic Preservation Commission have been and continue to be the city’s sentries when it comes to appropriate development and how the development takes shape. Telling people what they can and can’t do — within reasonable limits so the city is protected from unwanted development — with their properties can be difficult.
Members of the board and commission are following regulations, rules and guidelines put in place to ensure the city grows and develops in a way that preserves its historical, architectural and cultural heritage. That’s why the members give of their time to help protect that heritage.
Without their dedication and commitment to making sure that growth and development in the city is appropriate and aesthetically pleasing, Washington wouldn’t have that small-town charm that attracts thousands of visitors each year.
The board and commission have taken on the issue of heights for new buildings in the city. It’s an issue where there are more than just one or two points of views, or regulations for that matter.
Take the issue of determining a building’s height. Earlier this month at a joint meeting of the board and commission, four methods of how to measure a building’s height were discussed. They include the following:
Last week, the two bodies came up with a proposal for determining a building’s height. They suggest that a new building’s height will be measured from the mean grade level of the ground to the top of the building, plus a 1-foot maximum of fill allowed on the property. They also propose that in the B1H zoning district a new building’s height is not to be more than 15 percent higher than the average height of buildings in the same block, with no building to exceed 65 feet in height. Those rules also would apply in the Historic District overlay for the B1H zoning district.
Those suggestions, after a public hearing on June 13, will be sent to the City Council, which has final say on the matter.
Height rules in other zoning districts would remain unchanged.
That’s a reasonable method, devised during reasonable debate among members of both bodies. Plenty of individual points of view on the matter were offered, but the members worked to develop a recommendation they believe is in the best interest of the city.
Charles S. Major, a commission member said, he offered suggestions because he’s “interested in protecting the skyline.” His remark was echoed by members of both panels.
With their continuing work on the building-height issue, the commission’s recent work on revamping the Historic District guidelines and the board’s almost-finished job of updating the city’s land-use plan, the two bodies are showing they have an interest in protecting more than just the city’s skyline.
They are working to protect a way of life and Washington’s history and heritage.
And to the city’s residents, don’t let their job be a thankless one any longer. It’s time for us to say a simple word: “Thanks.”