Adaptive Reuse of Historic Buildings Bylaw hearing – Monday night

Above: Opponents of eliminating Use Variances pointed to the variance encouranging preservation of the Burnett Estate by allowing a potential Bed & Breakfast. Now, a proposed bylaw may allow owners of historic buildings to apply for a permit for that use and others. (2016 photo by Allan Bezanson)

Last month, the Historical Commission presented a draft bylaw for Adaptive Reuse of Historic Buildings to the Planning Board for discussion. Members reassured concerned owners of historical buildings that this doesn’t place new restrictions on their properties. Instead, it opens up new possibilities.

Historical and Planning hope to present the new bylaw to Town Meeting voters in April. The required public hearing opens (and potentially closes) on Monday night.

The intent of the proposed bylaw is to allow owners of historic properties alternative options to encourage preservation. The concept was presented to voters at October’s Special Town Meeting.

The ability to preserve historic buildings (like the Burnett estate) was one argument made against eliminating Use Variances. The Historical Commission responded that codifying the options was a better way than asking property owners to gamble on variance approval by the Zoning Board of Appeals. Member Michael Weishan told voters that the commission would work with Planning to draft the new bylaw.

The new draft was posted on the Town website in December (and I shared it on the blog.) At least two homeowners were concerned by language they believed would add zoning restrictions. The bylaw outlines Dimensional Controls and Restoration/Renovation Controls.

Historical members stated up front, and reiterated throughout the discussion, the restrictions would only apply for owners seeking a special permit for Adaptive Reuse. That special permit would allow buildings additional, specified, non-zoned uses, as long as they comply with the preservation restrictions.

Here is an excerpt from the draft: 

Any uses permitted in the zoning district for which this structure is located shall be permitted. The following uses are allowed by special permit and are subject to site plan review:

1) Residential Building and Structures

a) For single-family, owner-occupied houses under 3000 square feet:
one (1) internal auxiliary apartment with the existing architectural footprint.
b) For single family, owner-occupied houses over 3000 square feet:
one (1) auxiliary apartment or separate rental unit with the existing architectural
c) For single family owner occupied houses with substantial outbuildings such as barns or
carriage houses on the property, either attached or detached:

1. Photo studio, artist, craftsman, or other artisan studios (stock and trade may be
sold on the premises, provided that it is produced on the premises)
2. Repair and alteration of wearing apparel and accessories
3. Florist
4. Repair for musical instruments
5. Bed-and-Breakfast
6. Antique shop
7. Bakery
8. Caterer
9. Publisher

2) Commercial/Municipal Buildings and Structures:

a. Apartments or Condominiums
b. Senior/Affordable Housing
c. Professional or Administrative Offices.
d. Child Care Facility and/or Elder Care Facility.
e. Medical Clinic and Ancillary Offices and Facilities.
f. Research and Development uses (ancillary office use and electronic and computer
laboratories). No ancillary manufacturing, assembly, sale or resale or storage for sale or
resale of any goods, items, or material shall be allowed.
g. Restaurant/Pub
h. Animal hospital
i. Educational facilities
j. Athletic / recreational use
k. All uses listed in 1c above

The following uses/occupations/activities are expressly prohibited in historic buildings:
1) Servicing, Maintenance, or Restoration of Motor Vehicles
2) Trucking or Warehousing activities
3) Sale of Articles (except as provided in the above subsection)

For the full draft, click here.

The public hearing is scheduled to open on Monday, January 9th at 7:00 pm in the Town House Hearing Room.

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