Last night, 80 voters overruled 54 to determine that Southborough will have a bylaw to delay demolition of historic buildings.
Clearer majorities chose to support other articles, including a solar bylaw, recycling sticker, and actions supporting town recreation.
The demolition delay was the biggest item of the night. It started with a presentation, followed by five proposed amendments, many questions, and some debate.
Two approved amendments were language fixes by the article’s sponsors. Subsequently, two members of the Board of Selectmen unsuccessfully asked voters to make changes to regulations and enforcement.
Selectwoman Bonnie Phaneuf wanted to edit an “overreaching” clause to penalize a property owner for ignoring the law by prohibiting building permits for two years
on the parcel of land upon which the demolished significant building was located and all adjoining parcels of land under common ownership or control.
She wanted to eliminate reference to adjoing land. Historical Commission’s Michael Weishan referred to the penalty as the only bite in the bylaw. He explained that otherwise, a developer has been known to demolish a building and build the rest of a development around it while the two years passes.
Also overruled was Phaneuf’s request to include a requirement that owners of properties on the list be notified. Notifying owners was generally supported. But the legal liability of including it in the bylaw and ensuring receipt concerned town counsel and others.
BOS Chair Bill Boland looked to remove the section on Demolition by Neglect. He worried that an elderly homeowner could be forced to fix a falling down barn.
Weishan explained that it stops developers from using nature to destroy properties. He argued that language allowing the Building Inspector to use judgement should ease other concerns.
After his motion to remove the neglect section was voted down, Boland told residents that was his only concern. He advised voting for the bylaw if “you don’t care about that.”
Some owners of historic homes had concerns about the onus put on owners to participate
by providing information, allowing access to the property and securing the premises; for participating in the investigation of preservation options and for actively cooperating in seeking alternatives with the Commission and any interested parties.
Thomas McCarthy urged voters to reject the law. He reminded those with newer homes that he and others are “your neighbors”.
Steven Phillips said he was on the fence. He like the idea of a delay to protect heritage, but worried about what the stipulations would mean.
In the end, the majority voted for preservation. They further chose to protect town character by restricting commercial solar installations to the industrial and industrial park districts.
Residents also voted in favor of town recreation. Measures passed will fix tennis courts, request a home rule petition for an extended lease of 911 field and borrow to fund new lights for Choate athletic field.
The outcome of one article is still open, even after Town Meeting closed.
A citizen’s petition to allow residents access to the recycling center of the Transfer Station passed. But the vote only served as advice to selectmen who will vote on next year’s rules and regs in May.
Phaneuf and Selectman Paul Cimino supported the article. Boland indicated that if costs don’t support $25, the board may opt to choose $35 or some other amount. (Selectmen Dan Kolenda and John Rooney were absent.)
Public Works Planning Board Chair Desiree Aselbekian told the room that she supported it, though her board voted against it.
She clarified that the board voted months ago, and took the stance that instead all residents should be allowed full access to the Transfer Station. But she believes selectmen appear to be “cold” to the idea of funding fully through taxes. So, she supported the alternative proposed by resident Jack Barron.