Shame On MBTS Historic District Commission For Enforcement Short Falls

To the Editor,

As a resident of Manchester’s historic district, I received a "notice to abutters,” asking my permission to waive a public notice and hearing on the application of a hanging sign and “a red, white and blue barber light (required by law) at 26 Central St, Unit B...".  I do not give my permission for such a waiver.  I therefore sent the following letter to Rosemary Costello, the new chair of the HDC.

Given my various periods of membership on the Historic District Commission during the past two decades, signage has always been a major issue.  It is therefore important that the HDC post public notice and hold a public hearing on the application of: Kevin Patey for Jack's Barber Shack.

Some examples of past HDC signage issues may help explain my concern:

1.  There is a large sign at the corner of Elm & Central Streets that does not comply with the HDC’s signage guidelines in various ways.  Yet the HDC approved the sign in 2010. The HDC has continued to ignore its own guidelines, allowing the sign to grow even larger.  Specifically, guidelines are: all signs in HDC must be colonial or Victorian style; no corporate logos, shape and size must be historic, sign cannot block buildings or vista in district.

2.  Last year, unapproved neon signage appeared at two commercial establishments in the historic district on Central Street.  Once told they were out of compliance, both businesses removed their neon signs.

To maintain fairness to existing businesses in the HDC, who continue to comply with the HDC guidelines, we must apply HDC's signage guidelines equitably.  The Black Arrow, also located at 26 Central Street, had to present their proposed signage at a public hearing a few years ago.  To the restaurant owners’ credit, their signage complies perfectly with the HDC's guidelines, almost being understated. It is equally important that the owner of Jack's Barber Shack publicly present any proposed signs he might want to hang and/or affix to the building. 

Finally... A red, white and blue barber light is not "required by law," as was stated in the April 22, 2021 "Notice to Abutters" I received last Friday.

"(3) Display Sign and Barber Pole.  Every barber shop open to the public shall conspicuously “(3) Display Sign and Barber Pole.  Every barber shop open to the public shall conspicuously display a sign and a barber pole or a barber pole decal indicating it is a barber shop.”  240 Mass. Reg. 8.02y display a sign and a barber pole or a barber pole decal indicating it is a barber shop."

HDC members must remember that many who live in Manchester's Historic District are here, in part, because of the historicity of the village.  The HDC Guidelines are hopefully here to ensure that this historic merging of commercial and residential sectors will continue to help make Manchester a unique town on Boston's North Shore. 

Susan Wadia-Ells, Manchester