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Neighborhood Conservation Districts
Neighborhood Conservation Districts (NCDs) were authorized by vote at Town Meeting in 2007 in response to the increasing pace of home demolitions in the Town of Wellesley starting in the early 2000s. Although home demolitions still occur in the Town, NCDs have become a viable solution to maintaining the character of a neighborhood. Below, please find information on NCDs, how to create one, along with the status of the proposal for the creation of the Town’s newest NCD.
What is an NCD?
An NCD is a legally designated area that can protect property owners in distinctive neighborhoods that may not be eligible for protection as Historic Districts. Unlike Historic Districts that focus on architectural details of individual buildings, an NCD is concerned with neighborhood characteristics. Unlike zoning districts, an NCD doesn’t create dimensional or numerical standards. On the other hand, an NCD sets forth design guidelines that are tailored to the particular needs of the neighborhood and that are administered by the NCD’s own commission. The NCD commission encourages construction and alterations consistent with the neighborhood’s character.
Why were NCDs authorized?
Between 2000 and the time that NCDs were authorized in 2007, over 305 homes had been demolished in various neighborhoods throughout the Town. The existing zoning bylaws provided no protection against incompatible new construction that significantly alters the environment of surrounding houses and the neighborhood itself. Other communities throughout the country have found that one of the most effective means to provide individual property owners with a say in the development of their neighborhood is the NCD. An NCD is a mechanism by which neighborhoods may elect to develop their own guidelines for construction and alteration of structures in order to allow development without destroying the neighborhood’s special character.
How is an NCD created?
Property owners considering an NCD should meet among themselves to carefully consider which homes will be included in the NCD and whether they can meet the threshold requirements. Below is a summary of the steps to be taken. Please also view this detailed NCD Creation Flow Chart. If you have further questions, or wish to discuss forming an NCD, please contact the Town of Wellesley Planning Department or visit their NCD website.
- At least 80% of the property owners in a neighborhood petition the Wellesley Historical Commission, asking to be designated an NCD, describing the eligibility of the neighborhood, and submitting a map of the proposed area and preliminary guidelines for the NCD
- The Historical Commission establishes a study committee
- The Historical Commission and the Town Planning Board jointly hold a public hearing to discuss the study committee’s report
- The Historical Commission and Town Planning Board recommend the NCD to Town Meeting
- Following acceptance by a majority vote at Town Meeting, an NCD commission is appointed to oversee the NCD
Current owners, builders and new buyers all benefit from a sense of long-term stability in Wellesley. Growth and updating occurs, while at the same time irreplaceable neighborhood character is preserved. The whole Town benefits by offering a range of housing options and remaining one of the most desirable, attractive places to live in greater Boston.
Where are the current NCDs?
The Town currently has one NCD entitled the “Denton Road Neighborhood Conservation District” and applicants have proposed the creation of a second NCD entitled the “Standish Road Neighborhood Conservation District.”