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Demolition delay bylaw withdrawn from Belmont Town Meeting warrant

Posted by Evan Allen  April 23, 2012 10:44 AM

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The Belmont Historic District Commission has withdrawn a controversial demolition delay bylaw from the warrant for Town Meeting, citing widespread confusion over its potential impact on the Town of Homes.

“While the Historic District Commission believes it has crafted a bylaw that represents the best interest of all Belmontians, it is clear that we need to do a better job of presenting facts and addressing these questions and concerns,” said Commission co-chair Michael Smith in a statement.

This is the second time that the bylaw has been pulled from a Town Meeting warrant. Smith said that he intends to put it on the fall Town Meeting warrant.

The bylaw would give the Commission the authority to delay demolition of any building it deems “historically significant” for up to a year while alternatives to razing are discussed.

The bylaw defines a significant building as one that is over 50 years old and is on the National Register of Historic Places, is eligible for that Register, is associated with historic people or events, or is architecturally important.

Town Meeting members and members of several groups in Belmont, including the Planning Board and the Economic Development Advisory Committee, have raised concerns that the bylaw is too broad, and would tangle plans to demolish nearly any building in Belmont.

Smith said that in the coming months, the Historic District Commission will conduct hearings and meet with Town committees, boards and people to discuss the bylaw, and “make sure that clarity, not confusion, dominates the discussion at the fall Town Meeting.”

The demolition delay bylaw was inspired in part by the plight of the Thomas Clark House, built circa 1760 and sold last year to a developer who wanted to raze it to build new homes. The house has since been moved to a temporary location.

The bylaw was originally supposed to be discussed at Belmont’s Special Town Meeting in January, but Smith withdrew it after the Clark House developer threatened to demolish the Clark House if the bylaw stayed on the warrant.

Belmont is the only community within 21 surrounding communities without a demolition delay bylaw, according to the Commission.

“We look forward to working with Belmont to deliver a bylaw that is will understood and meets the needs of the entire community,” said Smith.

Belmont’s Town Meeting begins today.

Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe.com

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