To the Editor:
I applied to the Historic Preservation Committee (HPC) to replace an existing fence surrounding my property in the Witherspoon-Jackson Historic District. As a result I received numerous recommendations/directives as to altering the height, location, material, and finish of the proposed fence that was contrary to my architect’s well thought out design. The HPC not only dictated style, but felt empowered to overstep existing zoning laws and demand changes that are already defined in current zoning regulations. Their feedback to me was random, and without any historic basis. It appears that this 20th district was enacted without any consideration of a master plan from an architectural historical perspective as to what the district should NOW look like. We, the property owners, received absolutely no “informed consent” as to what we would be permitted to do with our properties, even down to what design period we were to comply with.
I request that the HPC call an emergency meeting and while adhering to all of their bureaucratic rules, quorum restrictions, legal restrictions, and political correctness, advise the owners in this district as to what type of fence we are allowed to build since it is obvious the HPC feels we are unable and unqualified to do it ourselves.
The following is a list of fence designs based on time periods that could be implemented. HPC, please tell me which historic time period we must adhere to.
1. Neanderthals: boundaries marked by human excrement.
2. Vikings: spiked pylons.
3. 1700s: piled field stone.
4. 1850s: split rail.
5. 1890s: wrought iron.
6. 1900s: cast iron.
7. 1930s: rusted bed springs, chicken wire, and milk crates.
8. 1940s: barbed wire as in the American/Japanese internment camps.
9. 1950s: veneered stone/brick.
10. 1970s: Untreated natural wood (what the HPC is demanding that I use).
11. 1980s: pressure treated lumber.
12. 2000s: PVC plastic fences (currently very popular in our historic Princeton).
It amazes me that the 20th Historic District in Princeton was created without a single definition as to which historic period was to be emulated. We the property owners are forced to spend our money on architectural design, only to be required to modify it at our own expense based on totally subjective demands by the HPC that embarrassingly have no basis in any historic context. The very sad result of this new set of bureaucratic regulations in this district is that it preserves in perpetuity the blighted properties in the district, drives out existing property owners that have lived in the neighborhood for many generations, and devalues their single most valuable asset, their home. Let the committee get together and clearly define the design features that comprise this historic district. It will be a difficult decision. Every fence described above already exists in the neighborhood!