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Demolition delay bylaw returns to Belmont Town Meeting Warrant

Posted by Evan Allen  April 9, 2012 03:45 PM

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A new bylaw that would give Belmont’s Historic District Commission the authority to delay the demolition of buildings it deems historically significant is on the warrant for the Annual Town Meeting, which will begin at the end of April and continued in mid-May.

The demolition delay bylaw, originally planned for January’s Special Town Meeting, is one of 18 articles officially on the warrant.

Town Meeting will be divided into two parts – the first beginning on April 23 and concerning non-financial articles including the delay bylaw, and the second beginning on May 14 and concerning financial articles, which will include a vote on the town’s budget.

The demolition delay bylaw is designed to protect historically significant buildings from being torn down before alternative solutions are considered.

The article 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.

The bylaw would require demolition permits to go through the Historic District Commission before they can be granted. If the Commission believes the building to be historic, then it can delay the demolition for up to a year while other options are investigated.

The article would affect only about 5% of all demolition permits filed, according to information provided by the Town Clerk’s Office.

The proposed bylaw, which the Clerk’s office says was a key goal of Belmont’s 2010 Comprehensive Plan, received publicity last year when the historic Thomas Clark House, built is 1760, was nearly demolished after being sold to a developer who wanted to build two new homes.

The house has since been moved to a temporary location, but the debate about its future raised questions in town about the need for a demolition delay bylaw.

According to information provided by the Clerk’s Office, all of Belmont’s neighboring communities, including Cambridge, Arlington, Watertown, Lexington and Waltham have demolition delay bylaws.

Also on the warrant for the April session are articles on the modification of the layout of Trapelo Road and Belmont Street; an article on the creation of a Stabilization fund by the Minuteman Regional Technical School District for capital funds; and an article about electronic voting by Town Meeting Members.

There will be a Warrant Briefing on Thursday, April 19 from 7-9 p.m., at the Beech Street Center in Belmont. The event is being sponsored by the Belmont League of Women Voters and the Warrant Committee.

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

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