An article on the spring Town Meeting warrant with a history dating back to November may be removed from the warrant so a new bylaw can be written that affects certain properties in town – and, ultimately, their possible demolition.
Erin Calvo-Bacci, owner of on Main Street, proposed to add an appeal to the Board of Selectmen to the town’s demolition delay bylaw, for structures that the local Historical Commission deems potentially historically significant.
Calvo-Bacci agreed at the selectmen’s meeting Tuesday to postpone the article to November Town Meeting so a new bylaw could be written, instead of amending what a number of town officials at the meeting described as an already-confusing bylaw. The process of adding properties to a list of potentially significant structures is not clear and concise and lacks guidelines, according to the warrant article background.
Two members of the Board of Selectmen and the Historical Commission, which administers the bylaw and Calvo-Bacci will work to write a new bylaw, according to Tuesday’s discussion.
Calvo-Bacci told Patch Wednesday that she is “contemplating” withdrawing the warrant article. She is waiting to withdraw it, she said, until she hears from the selectmen how they will form the bylaw writing group. Selectmen Rick Schubert and John Arena will represent the selectmen.
The bylaw’s purpose is “to preserve and protect historically significant structures within the town” with “distinctive” architectural, cultural, economic, political or social history features.
Any owner of a structure deemed potentially historically significant needs the right to appeal the listing, Calvo-Bacci told Patch. She described that designation, voted by the local Historical Commission on her property and others, as a “stigma.”
If the owner of one of those properties applies to demolish the property, the Historical Commission can, under the bylaw, impose a demo delay of up to six months if they vote the property a “Preferably Preserved Historic Structure” after a hearing, according to the current bylaw.
No Reading bylaws have an appeal process written into them, according to Historical Commission Chairman Mark Cardono, in a memo to Town Manager Peter Hechenbleikner. Further, a member of the Massachusetts Historical Commission “knows of no demolition delay bylaws that have an appeal process through the Board of Selectmen,” Cardono wrote.
The only way a property could be exempted from the bylaw, according to Town Counsel Gary Brackett of Brackett & Lucas, absent a specific provision, is if the Historical Commission received a request to reconsider a decision based on new information not presented the first time.
At the same time that Calvo-Bacci had her property listed on a local property inventory, separate from the bylaw, she received a notice of a public meeting where the Historical Commission planned to vote on listing properties, including hers, as potentially historically significant, she told Patch Wednesday. The letter states that “You are not required to be present” at the meeting, she said, and she did not attend.
People don’t understand what the designation of potentially historically significant means, Calvo-Bacci contends.
In considering structures that might fall under the bylaw, the Historical Commission considers criteria such as buildings’ architecture, architect and the “George Washington slept here” factor, Cardono told Patch Wednesday. A consultant to the Historical Commission researches local structures, he said.