In Milton, educate, don’t regulate
One of the many endearing qualities of Sussex County is its collection of small municipalities with their own various distinguishing features.
Among them: Rehoboth Beach with its Boardwalk, ocean beach and freshwater lakes; Lewes with its downtown canal frontage, bay beach, and history dating back to the mid-1600s; Millsboro with its Indian River and Millsboro Pond; and Georgetown with its deep history as the seat of Sussex government.
Milton has John Milton’s statue, Wagamons Pond, its shipbuilding heritage, Broadkill River and Dogfish Head craft brewery. But Milton’s most publicly visible distinguishing feature is its stationary parade of 19th and early 20th century structures – commercial and residential – lining Federal and Union streets.
Those dozens of architecturally significant structures are among the most prominent in Milton’s nationally recognized historic district. But the district also includes dozens of other historic structures radiating out from Federal and Union – for a total of 192 – that contribute to MIlton’s charm and character.
Milton Town Council members recently discussed Mayor Ted Kanakos’s suggestion that the town’s historic preservation committee consider creating a list of paint colors that historic district property owners should use on their structures. The mayor fears a dilution of the town’s historic feel because of occasional “atrocious” colors selected by property owners on the basis of sale prices rather than historic propriety.
Maintaining the feel of Milton’s historic district is important for individual property values and for the overall appeal of the entire community.
Enacting preservation regulations protecting contributing structures from demolition and wholesale changes in architectural appearance is important for the same reasons. But, as Councilmember P.D. Camenisch stated in the discussion, asking property owners to submit paint colors to a preservation commission for thumbs-up or thumbs-down invites far too much subjectivity, asks too much of members, and opens the door to further nitpicking regulation. Instead, as mentioned at the meeting, a palette of appropriate colors should be developed and offered to property owners as suggestions, not dictates, along with rationale for suggested colors.
Education is always preferable to regulation.