Trying to protect the historical integrity of the Beacon Hill neighborhood seems to becoming more difficult these days for the Beacon Hill Architectural Commission (BHAC).
A few years back, the commission refused to grant the approval for a generically manufactured signal box that the Boston Transportation Department (BTD) wanted to put on Charles Street when it was updating the technology for the traffic lights. The proposed box was out of a catalogue and was almost five feet tall. That box would have stood out like a sore thumb on Charles Street. The commissioners held their ground and eventually a traffic box about three feet tall was found that looked much more in place on Charles Street and was able to fit all the computers and technology, first thought impossible by BTD members to squeeze into anything smaller than five feet tall.
Two years ago, the BHAC refused to approve the application by the Department of Public Works to install plastic handicapped strips mounted in concrete citing the need to use a material other than plastic and concrete. This case is still in court.
At last Thursday night’s meeting, the BHAC voted to deny without prejudice one application to install an antenna on the roof at 122-126 Charles St. and allow two other applications, one replacing antennas and the other installing additional antennas to be withdrawn without prejudice. The BHAC cited their right to deny the applications as the top of the antenna would be seen from a public way even though much of it would be covered by a faux brick screen wall.
We support the BHAC in this matter. Whether the law will also support them is another matter.
For us who live in this historic neighborhood or any of the other historic neighborhoods in Boston, what drew us to these 200 year-old buildings was the visual character of the neighborhood. As homeowners, we have spent tens of thousands of extra dollars in building materials like real slate and real copper rather than opting for faux slate or faux copper.
Technology is changing our lives, though some may argue not for the better. We need technology in our homes and for our public safety protection. If an alternative to keeping these antennas from public view is available, the company’s added cost should not enter into the equation as it did not for the hundreds of homeowners on Beacon Hill. It should be considered the cost of doing business for the companies eager to work in our neighborhoods.
Does this option exist? We do not know, but the question needs to continue to be asked as it was asked on Thursday night.