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Historic Preservation Commissions: the value of communication

November 18, 2009

CAMP trainers Fred Raffetto, Esq. and Monica Callahan launch CAMP 2009. See more photos of this great event on PNJ's Flickr page!

Our intense fieldwork with historic preservation commissioners this past week was, as usual, a spectacular eye-opener: local preservation in New Jersey is diverse and intense, and local preservation efforts are tackling a host of challenges creatively and effectively each day. At Friday’s CAMP in Madison, we heard from commissioners dealing with everything from legal challenges to out-of-date resource surveys, and at the Pinelands Preservation Alliance forum we co-sponsored in Hammonton on Saturday, commissioners discussed their dealings with  issues as specific as sign ordinances and as broad as public education.

From all this discussion, however,  one overarching problem emerged as paramount: inter-commission communication. The home-rule nature of New Jersey’s municipalities seems to have gotten the better of most of our historic preservation commissions, resulting in a lack of communication between them. This is a problem that should be addressed immediately.

Historic preservation commissions are products of local legislation and therefore, all have slightly different procedures, political issues, and the like. Not to mention that, of course, each is dealing with a unique municipality and set of historic resources. All of this makes the tendency to be insular almost automatic: “Other cities and commissions are so different, what

HPC members collaborate on a hands-on design review exercise at this year's CAMP workshop. Help us continue our education efforts- donate TODAY!

do they have to do with us?” However, training days like those from this past week invariably reinforce that the basic functions, purpose, and activities of HPCs throughout the state are the same. All commissions deal with the same general challenges of  winning public approval, working closely with municipal authorities, reviewing applications for alteration, and the like. As a result, the potential for learning from one another is limitless!

If you are a local commissioner grappling with a problem or question,  post it in a comment here on our blog or on our Facebook page! Scores of other HPC members throughout NJ use these resources, and one never knows who might see your comment and be able to provide an answer. In addition, we are constantly adding the latest resources and information for HPCs to YOUR Local Preservation Commissions page on our website. Keep checking back for updates! Let us know what resources benefit you most and what you want to see more of.

These resources exist to serve you, so if you’re involved in local preservation, get connected and start talking! You are not alone- share your advice, and get your questions answered. Local preservation action in this state is diverse and strong, and a tight-knit statewide local preservation community will only makes things better!

We continue to pursue more effective ways to facilitate communication between HPCs- stay tuned!

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