Sudbury, Massachusetts, incorporated in 1639, values its rich history and town character as embodied through its wealth of historic properties, landmarks, and archeology sites. To advance the protection and preservation of the town’s historical and archaeological resources, Sudbury established the Historical Commission and the Historic Districts Commission (website link here), and enacted a Demolition Delay Bylaw (link here). This bylaw enables the Town to advocate for saving and protecting historic structures and archaeological sites. The bylaw permits a six-month demolition delay to provide a window of opportunity to find an alternate preservation solution for a property in lieu of demolition.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
What is the Intent and Purpose of Sudbury’s Demolition Delay Bylaw?
Bylaw Article XXVIII was enacted in 2004 for the purpose of protecting the historic and cultural resources of Sudbury. This is accomplished by preserving, rehabilitating or restoring buildings, structures or archaeological sites which reflect distinctive features of Sudbury’s town character and architectural heritage.
Who Administers the Demolition Delay Bylaw?
The Historical Commission oversees and administers the bylaw, in conjunction with the Town Building Inspector and the Planning and Community Development Department.
The Demolition Delay Bylaw does not apply to buildings, structures, or archaeological sites located in one of Sudbury’s historic districts. Properties within a historic district are regulated by the Historic Districts Commission. If your property is located in a historic district, you should contact the Historic Districts Commission (HistoricDistricts@sudbury.us.ma) about your project to determine if you should apply for a Certificate of Appropriateness.
What Triggers the Demolition Delay Bylaw?
When a Sudbury property owner (applicant) submits a Building Permit application (link here) to the Building Department to request a project permit for either a partial or full demolition, the Building Inspector first determines if the building or structure may be subject to the Demolition Delay Bylaw.
When the project is subject to the bylaw, the Building Inspector notifies the applicant the application has been referred to the Historical Commission. The Building Inspector cannot issue a Building Permit until the bylaw process is completed.
What Happens During the Demolition Delay Bylaw Process?
There are a series of procedural steps and their associated timeframes that are specified in the Demolition Delay Bylaw. These are summarized in the “Procedural Steps and Timetable in the Demolition Delay Bylaw Process” Table (link here).
What Buildings or Structures are Subject to Review Under the Demolition Delay Bylaw?
A building, structure or a portion thereof is subject to review if it is:
- Listed on the National or State Register of Historic Places or pending application, or
- Located within 200 feet of any federal, state, or local historic district, or
- Included in the Inventory of Historic and Prehistoric Assets of the Commonwealth or is designated for inclusion – more commonly known as the Massachusetts Historical Commission’s “MACRIS” inventory (Massachusetts Cultural Resources Information System) (mhc-macris.net), or
- Listed in the Town of Sudbury Historic Property Surveys (“Old Homes Survey” inventory), which are available at the Planning or Building Departments, or
- Constructed prior to January 1, 1940 or of indeterminate age.
When is a Partial Demolition Subject to the Demolition Delay Bylaw?
A partial demolition, as determined by the Building Inspector, can include, but is not limited to: the structural removal of any part of the building or structure such as the roof frame, wall, porch, portico, chimney, architectural trim, enlargement, relocated windows or doors, or additions to existing structure.
In general, the following does not trigger the Bylaw process: roofing, window, door and siding replacement, interior remodeling that does not affect the outside of the building, decks not seen from the street, unattached decks or accessory structures (if built after January 1, 1940), or repairs and replacements of partial building parts, that use the same design and materials (if due to decay, fire or other structural damage).
Contact the Building Department (email@example.com) or the Historical Commission (firstname.lastname@example.org) for additional information about projects that could be determined to be a partial demolition.
What Happens When the Building Inspector Informs the Historical Commission of a Property that May be Subject to the Demolition Delay Bylaw?
Upon notification from the Building Inspector that a property may be subject to the full or partial Demolition Delay Bylaw, the Historical Commission contacts the applicant to schedule a site inspection visit. Upon conclusion of the site inspection visit, the Historical Commission convenes a public meeting to determine if the property is historically significant.
If the Historical Commission determines the property is not historically significant, the property will not be subject to the Demolition Delay Bylaw and the Historical Commission will notify the Building Inspector that a Demolition Permit may be issued.
If the Historical Commission determines that the property is historically significant, the property will be subject to the Demolition Delay Bylaw and a public hearing will be held following the applicant’s submission of a demolition plan.
What is a Historically Significant Building or Structure?
Generally, a historically significant building or structure is one which is:
- Associated with one or more historic persons or events, or with the architectural, cultural, political, economic, or social history of Sudbury, the State of Massachusetts or our country, or
- Historically or architecturally important by reason of period, style, method of building construction, or
- Associated with a particular architect or builder.
Determining historical significance is guided by the criteria used to determine eligibility for listing in the National Register of Historic Places (link here). Surveying historically significant buildings and structures is an ongoing project of the commission. Many historically significant buildings remain to be surveyed.
What Can an Owner Do to Prepare for the Demolition Delay Bylaw Public Hearing?
If the building or structure is determined to be historically significant, the applicant will provide preferably nine (9) copies, of a demolition plan to the Planning and Community Development Department and a digital copy as a single PDF emailed to PCD@sudbury.ma.us. The demolition plan must include: i) a map showing the location of the building or structure with reference to lot lines and neighboring buildings and structures; (ii) photographs of all street facade elevations; (iii) a description of the building or structure or part thereof, to be demolished; (iv) the reason for the proposed demolition; and (v) a brief description of the proposed reuse of the parcel where the building or structure to be demolished is located. The demolition plan is prepared and submitted in advance of the public hearing.
What is the Objective of the Public Hearing?
The Historical Commission will review the demolition plan with the applicant to determine whether or not the building should be “preferably preserved.” If the Historical Commission makes a “preferably preserved” determination, the Commission will invoke a delay on the issuance of a Demolition Permit. In the case of a partial demolition plan and if feasible, the Commission will seek to reach an agreement with the applicant on the demolition plan that would avoid invoking the delay.
How Long is the Demolition By Law Delay?
The Demolition Bylaw Delay period is six (6) months.
What happens During the Demolition Bylaw Delay Period?
During the delay period, the owner, the Historical Commission, and other Town departments work together collaboratively to find a common solution, such as incorporating the building into future site development, adaptive re-use, and or seeking a person or group willing to purchase, preserve, rehabilitate, move or restore the building or structure.
Can the Bylaw Stop an Owner from Demolishing Their House (or Other Structure)?
No. Although the intended objective is to reach a mutually agreeable solution, it is only a delay. If no preservation solution is found by the end of the six month period, the Building Inspector will issue a Building Permit.
Who Do I Contact for Further Questions?
Contact the Planning and Community Development Department at 978-639-3387 or PCD@sudbury.ma.us.