Demolition Review Bylaw Information
The 2017 Annual Town Meeting adopted a new section to the Town Bylaw, Article 46C, Historic Preservation Demolition Review (PDF) (Bylaw).
Application for Eligibility Notice, Preservation Determination, and Waiver to be submitted to the Planning Department to initiate any of the processes under the Bylaw.
Information on applications pending review by the Historical Commission may be found here: LINK
While the Bylaw indicates an "Effective Date" of July 1, 2017, as a general Town Bylaw, it is not effective until after approval by the Attorney General's Office AND the text of the Bylaw is publicly posted by the Town Clerk. A letter from the Attorney General's Office approving the Bylaw was received on August 7, 2017; the Bylaw was published by the Town Clerk on August 15, 2017 at 4:30pm, and is therefore effective as of that date and time.
Applying the Bylaw
The Bylaw applies to any Building that is used as a dwelling (or was used as dwelling within 3 years of the Application date), as defined in the State Building Code, which was built on or prior to December 31, 1949; a Building meeting these standards is considered to be an Eligible Building under the Bylaw. Under the Bylaw, if an Owner intends to Demolish such a building, entirely or by removing or enveloping 50% or more of the existing exterior structure, then additional review by the Town's Historical Commission will be required.
Bylaw Review Processes
Step 1 - Initial Eligibility Determination
A Property Owner intending to demolish greater than 50% of a dwelling would first need to file an application with the Planning Department for an Eligibility Notice confirming whether the dwelling would be considered an Eligible Building under the Bylaw. If Planning Department staff confirms that the dwelling was built after December 31, 1949, an Eligibility Notice would be issued indicating that the dwelling is not an Eligible Building under the Bylaw and there would be no further action necessary before permits could be issued by the Building Department to Demolish the structure. If Planning Department staff confirms that the dwelling was built on or before December 31, 1949, an Eligibility Notice would be issued indicating that the dwelling is an Eligible Building under the Bylaw and that further action by the Historical Commission would be needed before permits could be issued by the Building Department to Demolish the structure.
If a Property Owner is proposing to demolish or envelope less than 50% of the building, they may submit building elevations and calculations that prove the project will not trigger the Bylaw. Calculation and Elevation Drawing Instructions & Example
Step 2 - Historical Commission Review; Determination of "Preferably Preserved"
If an Eligibility Notice is issued indicating that a dwelling is an Eligible Building under the Bylaw and the Owner wishes to proceed with the proposed Demolition, a public hearing will be scheduled with the Historical Commission (within 45 days of application) so that the Commission may determine if the dwelling should be Preferably Preserved. If the Commission determines that a dwelling should be Preferably Preserved, a 12-month delay would be imposed on the issuance of any permits by the Building Department to Demolish the dwelling; if the Commission determines that a dwelling should not be Preferably Preserved, no further action would be necessary before permits could be issued by the Building Department to Demolish the structure.
The determination as to whether an Eligible Building should be Preferably Preserved is based on the Commission's finding that the proposed Demolition would be detrimental to the historical or architectural heritage of the Town because the dwelling is:
- Importantly associated with one or more historic persons or events, or with the architectural, cultural, political, economic or social history of the Town, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts or the United States of America,
- Historically or architecturally important by reason of period, style, method of building construction or association with a particular architect or builder, either by itself or in the context of a group of Buildings, or
- Located within one hundred fifty (150) feet of the boundary line of any federal or local historic district and contextually similar to the Buildings located in the adjacent federal or local historic district.
Waiver to Potentially Reduce the Length of the 12-Month Delay
If the Historical Commission has determined that an Eligible Building should be Preferably Preserved and a 12-month delay on Demolition has been imposed, an Owner may seek a waiver from the Historical Commission to reduce the length of the delay or eliminate it entirely. In determining whether to grant the waiver and reduce the delay, the Commission may consider whether the Owner has:
- Made a bona fide, reasonable and unsuccessful effort to locate a purchaser for the Building who is willing to preserve, rehabilitate or restore the Building
- Agreed to accept a Demolition Permit on specified conditions approved by the Commission. If the specified conditions involve approved plans and elevations, then no Demolition Permit shall be issued by the Inspector of Buildings unless the Owner provides to the Inspector of Buildings a complete set of plans and elevation drawings which have been signed and stamped by the Commission, provided, however, that if such plans and elevations are subsequently modified, no copy signed and stamped by the Commission shall be required if such modifications do not substantially alter the plans and elevations previously approved by the Commission
If the Historical Commission approves plans to accept a demolition permit Commission does not need to review any subsequent modifications to such plans unless changes made by the Owner or another Town permitting body are substantial and materially alter the proposal.
For Waiver Submission Guidelines please follow this link.
The proposed fees associated with applications under the Bylaw are located on the Planning Department's fee schedule (PDF). Fees were approved by the Historical Commission at a meeting on June 13, 2017.
Work that is Not Subject to Review
Generally, any work that does not constitute the Demolition of an Eligible Building is not subject to review under the Bylaw; this includes:
- Non-structural changes to roofing and siding
- Any interior changes
- Demolition of accessory structures, such as dog houses, sheds, garages, and carriage houses (unless used as a dwelling currently or in the last 3 years)
Starting the Review Process
An Owner can start the review process at any time. The review process under the Bylaw is intended to occur before an Owner files an application for a Demolition Permit with the Building Department, which requires that utilities be disconnected. The disconnection of utilities is not required before applying for an Eligibility Notice or Preservation Determination.
If other permits or approvals are required, such as Large House Review or a Special Permit, those reviews can occur concurrently. However, it is recommended that Owners start the review process under the Bylaw, if applicable, as early as possible to aid in their planning and provide useful information for other review processes.
The staff of the Planning Department will assist the Historical Commission in administering the Bylaw.