Lexington's Neighborhood Conservation District (NCD) bylaw states that it is intended:
“To recognize that the Town of Lexington contains unique and distinctive neighborhoods and areas which contribute significantly to the overall character and identity of the Town and which are worthy of preservation and protection. The Town aims to preserve, protect, and enhance these neighborhoods through the establishment of Neighborhood Conservation Districts...”
In 2006, The Town of Lexington partnered with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Freedom’s Way Heritage Association to produce the Lexington Reconnaissance Report as part of the Massachusetts Heritage Landscape Inventory Program and the Freedom’s Way Landscape Inventory.
The Report documented that “in many small older neighborhoods, there is considerable pressure to tear down older homes and combine lots to create large new houses that are out of scale with the neighborhood.” One recommendation was that Lexington should evaluate creation of “neighborhood architectural conservation districts” which are local initiatives that recognize special areas within a community where the distinctive characteristics of buildings and places are preserved and protected. They are less restrictive than local historic districts but still embrace neighborhood character. Neighborhood architectural conservation district designation is appropriate for residential neighborhoods where more design flexibility is needed than in local historic districts.
With strong public support, the Historical Commission and the Planning Board cooperated to present an article to the 2016 Town Meeting that would enable neighborhoods to form Neighborhood Conservation Districts. NCDs are one tool that can be used to preserve neighborhoods. This movement is active in other parts of the State and the country.
Creating an NCD
Chapter 78 of the Code of Lexington, the enabling legislation, describes both the purpose and the process of creating an NCD. If a neighborhood is interested in considering the formation of an NCD, and successfully petitions the Historical Commission, a Study Committee will be appointed. A Study Committee consists of one member from the Historical Commission, one member from the Planning Board, and three residents of the proposed NCD appointed by the Town Manager.
Two neighborhoods, Turning Mill and Pierce-Lockwood, began work in the fall of 2016 to meet the guidelines to become NCDs and presented their reports to Town staff in the spring of 2017.