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Town Meeting Rejects Effort to Weaken Demolition Delay

Article 27 panned as poorly written, inconsistent.

An effort to make it easier to bypass the Reading Historical Commission’s ability to delay the demolition of historical structures failed Thursday.

At the second day of Town Meeting, David Mancuso of Making Reading Better presented article 27, which he crafted with the intent to create a simple process to appeal the delay. As he described it, an impacted homeowner could write a letter, appear before the Board of Selectmen, argue his or her case and receive a verdict.

But the article’s opponents, including the historical commission and the bylaw committee, panned article 27 as poorly written, inaccurate and inconsistent with its intent.

In response, Town Meeting Member John Carpenter asked the bylaw committee for more specific criticism.

“It doesn’t get to what they’re trying to do,” said Philip Pacino, chairman of the bylaw committee. “If you want to do it word for word, we could be here for the rest of the night.”

Mark Cardono, chairman of the historical commission, said that the wording of the article could have been clarified if the commission had been included in the writing process.

Mancuso apologized for the wording, attributing it to his “poor writing skills,” but said that he ran the article past the town counsel, who declared it “legally acceptable.”

He added that he had invited the historical commission to participate in writing the bylaw, but they had declined.

Thursday’s effort followed an effort at April’s Town Meeting, which . Previously, the commission had been able to delay demolition of a project for up to a year. An article passed at April’s town meeting reduced that to six months.

Karl Weld November 18, 2011 at 03:14 PM
I take issue with the fact that this article is claiming that the proposed article would weaken the demo delay bylaw. The article would do nothing to weaken the demo delay. It would simply give the property owner a chance to appeal the implementation of the demo delay. If the Board, as the final arbiter, feels that the delay should stand, then delay stands. If the Board feels that the delay is unwarranted, then they may rescind it, much as the ZBA hears an appeal for zoning issues.
John Carpenter November 19, 2011 at 03:42 PM
I was disappointed in the Bylaw Committee's vague dismissal, and the Historical Commission's claims, which misrepresented how the draft bylaw had been developed. If there's another meeting on this topic with the Historical Commission, we should ensure that it is an open meeting, and several Town Meeting members should attend to hear what is actually said, and see how constructive the Commission's response is. I am surprised that other Town Meeting members didn't see through the smokescreen of obstructionism,. I am also surprised that we didn't hear accounts from members who have dealt with the current bylaw, positive or negative. The discussion did not get to the merits of the proposal. I am for reasonable and responsible historic preservation, but I am not for restricting a property owner without due process. Let's improve the draft article for next time, and build an appeals process into the bylaw.

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