Three people have applied to be alternates on the Groton Historic District Commission and will be interviewed starting next week.
Commission member Nancy Mitchell has also applied for reappointment to the commission and will be interviewed Tuesday.
The historic district commission has been the subject of controversy since December, . The architects said the commission has become an “elitist” group that makes unreasonable demands on property owners, costing them thousands of dollars.
Three Open Seats
After the architects wrote the letter, during a council meeting in response, saying people who don’t like the group should join the board and change it themselves.
The commission has eight seats, including three seats for alternate, non-voting members that are vacant. Three people have applied:
Mark J. Somers
Somers, a cardiologist and former board member of New London Main Street, applied on Jan. 6. Somers has restored two historic homes, including a Victorian home in Groton Bank.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering sciences from Yale University in 1988 and his doctorate from Duke Medical School in 1993. He is married to Heather Bond Somers, Groton's town mayor.
Everett, who is retired from the legal department at Electric Boat, applied on Oct. 26. He served on Groton's Zoning Board of Appeals from 1972 until 1981.
Everett earned his master’s degree from the University of Connecticut and his graduate degree in law from Harvard University. He is a member of the Connecticut Bar and was chairman of the sister city committee from 1994 until 1996.
Kimenker, a partner in a real estate development and management firm, applied on Jan. 18. He is past president of the Mystic River Historic Society and remains on the society’s board of trustees.
He also serves on the board for the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra in New London. Kimenker bought a house in the historic district in 2002, with the sale contingent on approval of renovations by the historic district commission.
Somers said he’s renovated two homes and has always had interest in architecture and history. But preserving history must be balanced with the needs of homeowners, he said.
“Nobody wants Mystic to become McMansions,” he said. “So on the one hand, I think it’s really important to preserve the architecture, the history . . . But on the other hand, for the owner, this house is their major investment. It’s where they’re putting their money; it’s where they spend their days.
"So the owner, I think, should have control over their house.”
Aware of Complaints
Everett said he believes the district commission serves an important role in preserving the character of the neighborhood. He's aware of complaints, but does not know if they are accurate.
“They may not be doing it right, but there is a job to be done and we voted for the historic district commission in the first place . . .” Everett said. “I like to think that I’m somewhere in the middle. I don’t think people are entitled on the board to say, ‘Well, I just don’t like it,’ and that has been part of the complaint that people have had.”
Delayed, Not Denied
Kimenker said he and his wife bought their house on Gravel Street contingent on the commission approving their proposed renovations.
Kimenker said they were treated fine, but they watched the people before them ask to move a single window one foot.
“And guess what happened?" Kimenker said. "They weren’t denied. They were (asked) if they really had to do the window, and if they really had to do the window, to come back another time. Now, to me, that is completely and utterly abusive.”
Kimenker said making people return again is unfair because they have to pay architects and lawyers by the hour.
He said he's attended other hearings recently, and does not understand why materials that previously would have been approved are unacceptable today.
“I was just appalled listening to some of the questions, like about shadow lines. They were getting into materials being used,” he said. “These were things you could not tell from the street.”