As of May 29, 2018, a new Demolition Delay Bylaw is in effect in the Town of Walpole, as passed by Spring Town Meeting 2018. The most significant change is changing the delay period from six months to twelve months.
The Walpole Historical Commission's primary function is to execute Chapter 349 of the Town of Walpole Bylaws (known as the Demolition Delay Bylaw.) This bylaw requires that the Commission have input in the demolition of any structure in town that is more than 100 years old.
Under this bylaw, the Commission may vote to impose a delay of up to twelve months on the demolition of any historically significant structure more than 100 years old. The purpose of the delay is to encourage the property owner to seek alternatives to demolition.
This bylaw exists for the purpose of protecting and preserving significant buildings and/or structures and aesthetic resources within the Town. It is a tool by which the Town may use to encourage owners of buildings or structures that may be demolished to find alternatives to the demolition, thereby preserving the cultural heritage of the town.
About the Demolition Delay Bylaw (Chapter 349):
The Demolition Delay Bylaw was enacted in Walpole in 1973, and last updated in 2018.
Under the bylaw, the Historical Commission reviews any demolition application for structures more than 100 years old or on the National or State Register of Historic Places, and, if the structure is historically or architecturally significant, the Commission may impose a delay of up to twelve months on the demolition. (see process outlined below)
After the delay period ends, the applicant may proceed to demolish the structure.
The purpose of the delay period is to give the applicant and Commission an opportunity to explore alternatives to demolition, that involve preservation and rehabilitation of the structure. If the Commission is satisfied that the structure is unlikely to be preserved or rehabilitated, they may vote to end the delay period prior to the delay expiring.
There are more than 1,000 structures (including outbuildings, garages, houses, etc.) that are more than 100 years old and fall under the bylaw’s jurisdiction. However, there are typically fewer than five demolition applications for structures more than 100 years old per year, and fewer than two of these are typically determined by the Commission to be “historically and/or architecturally significant” and warrant a demolition delay.
Demolition Delay Bylaw Process:
- All demolition applications are submitted to the Building Commissioner.
- If a demolition application is submitted for a structure more than 100 years old (per Assessor database) or listed on the National or State Register of Historic Places, the Building Commissioner must forward the application to the Historical Commission for their review within five (5) working days.
- The Historical Commission generally conducts a site visit and conducts initial research in collaboration with the property owner to determine if the structure is “historically and/or architecturally significant.”
- The Historical Commission meets within 15 working days of receiving a completed demolition application from the Building Commissioner, to vote on a determination of whether the structure is “historically and/or architecturally significant” as defined in the Demolition Delay Bylaw.
- If the Historical Commission votes that a structure is NOT “historically and/or architecturally significant,” the Commission notifies the Building Commissioner who may then issue a demolition permit for the structure without delay.
- If the Historical Commission votes that a structure IS “historically and/or architecturally significant,” the Commission notifies the Building Commissioner. A public hearing must be held within 20 working days, as advertised in a local newspaper at the applicant’s expense, at which time the Historical Commission listens to public input and accepts expert testimony. The Commission then must vote on whether the structure should be “preferably preserved” under the bylaw, and thus a demolition delay should be imposed.
- If a demolition delay is imposed, the applicant is expected to explore alternatives to demolition with the support of the Historical Commission, which may include rehabilitating the structure, incorporating historical elements of the historic structure into the new structure, or finding a location to relocate the structure to.
- The applicant may request that under the “Exceptions” section of the Demolition Delay Bylaw that the demolition delay be ended prior to its expiration. In this situation, the applicant would be expected to provide evidence, usually from a credible expert or entity, that preservation or rehabilitation is impossible and that allowing the delay to run its course would be futile.
- At the end of a demolition delay, the town has no further recourse to protect a structure from demolition, and the applicant may demolish it no matter what, even if they have previously made no effort to explore alternatives to demolition.