SWL: Historical Commission pursuing Demolition Delay Bylaw and Historic District

Southborough’s lack of a demolition delay bylaw for historic homes was front and center in town news this summer. A Town committee has been working to change that.

The Burnett House (aka Garfield House at 84 Main Street) was in imminent danger of being demolished. Town officials made it clear their hands were tied.

Developer Robert Moss was in process of purchasing the property. He made it clear there would be no delay to seek alternatives to demolition. (After public protest, the property owners voluntarily halted the sale to work with the Town on an alternative plan.)

Preservationists in town called for Southborough to develop a demolition delay bylaw like many neighboring committees.

And with new members reinforcing their ranks, the Historical Commission took on the task. They added it to their ongoing work to develop an Historic District in Southborough.

Southborough Wicked Local interviewed commission member Joe Hubley on their progress:

Hubley said member Katerine Matison [sic] is updating the town’s historic resources survey that could lead to creating a historic district. Matison said the commission is in the early stages of the project and would not comment further. The district will likely be proposed through the National Register of Historic Places for recognition only, not to restrict property owners in any way.

Hubley said the commission is hoping to bring the [demolition delay] bylaw forward at a future Town Meeting. Town counsel is reviewing the proposed bylaw and the final details are still being worked out, he said.

The bylaw will establish a process to review proposed demolitions of historic structures and will be modeled after similar bylaws in surrounding towns. Many require six- to- nine-month delays to explore options for saving historic structures. 

“We are not reinventing the wheel,” Hubley said. “Many towns have already adopted this.”

Hubley said Town Meeting in the early 2000s shot down a demolition delay measure.

“There wasn’t enough support at the time,” he said, noting the commission back then was unable to answer many of the questions asked by residents.

“This time we should have the answers to the questions that come up,” Hubley said.

To read the full SWL article, click here.

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