What was the November 14, 2013 Town Meeting on Historic District Designation About?
As a result of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in 2011, the State of Pennsylvania applied for a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant to acquire and demolish several houses in West Pittston, Luzerne County. The grant is intended to remove repetitively damaged properties from the floodplain, allowing for the natural confluence of water in the event of another flood.
All grant programs are subject to FEMA Environmental Planning and Historic Preservation review prior to approval. Under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, FEMA must evaluate the affects to cultural resources and the historic built environment. FEMA researched and wrote a concise history of West Pittston and assessed the various architectural styles. I doing so FEMA found that part of the borough of West Pittston contained a historic district, eligible for inclusion to the National Register of Historic Places. In consultation with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), FEMA and PHMC agreed that the demolition of properties inside the eligible historic district would have an adverse impact on the town.
To comply with National Historic Preservation Act, FEMA must work to resolve adverse impacts before the grant is approved. To meet this requirement, FEMA was required to record the properties and host a public presentation. Archival photographs of the eligible historic buildings to be acquired will be sent to PHMC for future use in research. FEMA and PHMC also hosted a public presentation at the Trinity Episcopal Church in West Pittston. Officials of the two agencies provided a brief history of West Pittston, highlighted the architectural styles in the historic district, identified the boundaries of the historic district and explained how FEMA and PHMC drew them, and discussed the benefits of listing.
WPT and the West Pittston Historical Society are taking the application process forward.