Amend Article 5.3 of the Town's General By-laws pertaining to Demolition Delay

Petitioner: Preservation Commission

Special Town Meeting, November 2018

This article is being submitted by the Preservation Commission in an effort to improve Article 5.3 of the Town's General By-Laws: the Demolition Delay By-Law. The Commission is proposing three changes:

Amend Section 5.3.4
Article 5.3 operates to slow the process of demolition of Significant Buildings by imposing a delay on when an owner can demolish all or part of their structure. When demolition is stayed, the owner has an incentive to work with the Commission towards a solution that preserves some of the building. A delay can potentially last as long as a year or in some cases 18 months, but in the 20 cases where owners worked with the Commission last year, 19 were resolved, and had the stay lifted before it expired, allowing the owners to proceed with their planned work.

In recent years, however, the Preservation Commission has seen an increase in full demolition applications for buildings that are for sale or about to be put on the market, in which the applicant has no plans to demolish the building. In these cases, the applicant has decided that starting the clock of a possible demolition delay will make the property more saleable by eliminating or reducing the requirement for a future owner to wait out the delay. This practice removes any incentive to work with the Commission to reduce the delay. The current owner has no incentive to work with the Commission, because they intend to sell the building, not demolish it. Any future buyer also has no incentive to work with the Commission, because the original applicant has already run out the clock on the delay period. In 2017, 12 full demolition applications followed this pattern. These cases take up a significant amount of time and effort, and the Commission and staff feel they could better serve the public and the town if applicants did not approach the demolition by-law in this way. Therefore, the Commission is proposing to add a new section making applications for demolition permits non-transferable. If a building is sold, the new owner would have to reapply for a demolition permit, and the delay period would restart.

The Commission has provided exceptions to this situation, as when an owner applies for a demolition permit and then works with the Commission to develop an approved design before selling the project. Similarly, a prospective buyer with a plan for a full or partial demolition can have the original owner apply and utilize that plan. If the Commission approves the design, the prospective buyer may purchase the property and commence with the agreed-upon project without having to file for a new demolition permit.

Official Town Meeting Vote Select Board Advisory Board

Favorable Action

Favorable Action

Favorable Action




Final Result:

Favorable Action

Community Organization Recommendations
PAX Green Caucus
Official Text of the Article

VOTED: That the Town amend the Section 5.3 of the Town's General By-Laws as follows:

The amended sections of the General By-Law would thus read as follows (clean copy):

Section 5.3.2.h. "Demolition" - (i) the act of pulling down, destroying, removing or razing a Building or a significant portion thereof, by substantially removing or substantially covering one side or removing 25% or covering 25% of the exterior walls of the building, or substantially removing or substantially altering the roof; (ii) moving a Building from its site with no permitted new location for said Building; (iii) in the case of a Building within Section 5.3.5(b), substantially gutting (as defined by the Preservation Commission per section 5.3.14) an interior space that has generally been open to the public and is integral to the historic character of the building; (iv) in the case of a building within Section 5.3.5(b), the systemic removal, effacement, or destruction of the exterior architectural elements which define or contribute to the historic character of the Building, or (v) commencing any of the foregoing work. "Demolition" as used herein shall be deemed to include Demolition by Neglect.

Section 5.3.4.d: An application for a Demolition Permit is valid only with respect to the owner(s) of record at the time it is delivered to the Preservation Commission Staff, unless otherwise provided for in this section. In the event of an arm's length transfer of ownership and control of a Significant Building, no Demolition Permit shall be issued until the new owner files a new application and complies with the procedures set forth in Section 5.3.3 through Section 5.3.12. An applicant for a Demolition Permit shall certify to the satisfaction of Preservation Commission Staff, immediately prior to its issuance, that there has been no change as the result of an arm's length transfer of ownership and control subsequent to the delivery of the application to the Preservation Commission Staff, and the Building Commissioner shall not issue a Demolition Permit without Preservation Commission Staff certification or evidence that the applicant intends to take advantage of the exemption listed below in this section. Notwithstanding the foregoing, if the Commission has, pursuant to its discretion in Section 5.3.10, voted to lift a stay based on a design submitted by a previous owner, the Building Commissioner, in conjunction with the Preservation Commission Staff, may approve and issue a Demolition Permit without having the new owner file a new Demolition Permit application for that design.

Section 5.3.7: Within 30 Business Days of an Initial Determination that the building falls into one or more of the categories in Section 5.3.5, the Commission shall review the Application and Initial Determination, without reference to any proposed replacement use or design, at a public hearing with notice given as provided in Section 5.3.12 to determine whether the building is significant as defined in Section 5.3.2.…