EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 29, 2013

An eyesore? New gas meters upset residents of historic district

By Sara Brown

---- — LAWRENCE - Residents of Orchard Street are upset about new gas meters that have been installed outside their homes, describing them as too “hideous” looking for the historic district.

Orchard Street is part of the Prospect Hill Historic Diustict where homeowners have to get permission from the commission if they want to alter the look of their homes in any way.

Columbia gas started installing the meters this summer when resident Julianne Shelzi brought the issue to the attention of Jay Dowd, chairman of the Prospect Hill Historic Commission.

“They’re atrocious,” Dowd said. “It’s really offensive work.”

“When I saw these meters, I thought ‘you got to be kidding me,’” Shelzi said. “They are an eyesore.”

What upsets the commission even more is that no one told them the meters were being installed.

“Nobody said anything to anybody,” Dowd said.

Normally, if changes to property happen, a building permit is needed and the Commission is told. The Commission then comes up with ideas on how the changes should happen.

“I can assure you if the gas company reached us we would have had a quite lengthy conversation,” Dowd said.

“Columbia Gas ought to understand and appreciate the historic significance of these properties and respect the state and federal preservation laws,” Shelzi added.

Dowd worries they didn’t go through the proper permit process.

“Either they didn’t need a permit, thought they didn’t need one or skirted around the whole permit issue to begin with,” he said. “Just because they are gas doesn’t mean they can do whatever they damn well please.”

“One would think the gas company would have to adhere to the same standards as we do,” he added.

Dowd said the new meters adversely affect the aesthetic value of the properties.

“We try to make the properties look as good and historically accurate as possible. It’s a long process,” he said. “They just set us back 10 years.”

The historic commission held a meeting last week to discuss the matter.

Before Columbia Gas placed the meter outside the homes, they were located in cellars.

“That has worked fine for years. Why do they need to be put outside in yards?” Dowd said.

A representative from Columbia Gas said they did not need to contact and get permission from the commission.

“It was not a requirement on our end,” Manager Communications & Community Relations Andrea Luppi said.

Luppi also said Columbia Gas moved the meters outside for safety measures.

“It’s the safest option,” she said. “It’s easier to read the meters that are outside in case of a gas leak instead of waiting for someone to be home. Safety is the number one priority for Columbia Gas.”

Luppi said Columbia Gas received no complaints about the new meters.

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