Historic Demolition Review Ordinance proposed in Belmont

BELMONT — A group of citizens has petitioned a warrant article on to the March 2014 SB-2 ballot that would create and adopt a Historic Demolition Review Ordinance.

The ordinance, if passed, would create a review committee that would be comprised of at least three members of the Heritage Commission.

Any proposed demolition of a building that is older than 50 and is visible from an adjacent public land or is listed or is eligible to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places or the New Hampshire State Register of Historic Places would have to be reviewed by this committee but the committee would not have to legal power to stop it.

Twenty-six people signed the petition and the Office of the Town Clerk Tax Collector has verified them. The petition was filed with the town on Dec. 11.

Linda Frawley of the Heritage Commission said the idea of an ordinance has been in the minds of members of the commission for at least a year but it was only in autumn of this year when the commission approached the Planning Department and asked them to craft an ordinance that could go on the annual town meeting warrant.

She said the Heritage Commission hasn't weighed in on this specific petitioned warrant article but said three of the seven members signed the petition — including herself. The other two are Alice Jewell and Priscilla Annis.

She said the initial draft of the ordinance was generated by the Planning Department after a lengthy discussion with commission member Wallace Rhodes and it included buildings throughout the entire town.

"That was much greater than we wanted," Frawley said yesterday.

Frawley said she rewrote the proposed ordinance to restrict it to the Factory Village Historical District.

In her opinion, the ordinance would apply to all buildings, including those owned by the local government.

Town Planner Candace Daigle said the Factory Village Historical District exists but at this time it is not a regulatory district — meaning there are no specific planning or zoning ordinance that apply to it and it alone. She said it was designated as an official district two years ago as a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) District.

Daigle also said that town-owned property is not subjected to planning and zoning ordinances because Belmont voters have not officially voted to include all municipal property as subject to planning and zoning regulation.

"We do try to adhere, though, " Daigle said.

When Frawley was asked how this ordinance would specifically address the Gale School, she said she didn't know but allowed the school is in the Factory Village Historic District, which she said was designated in 2002 or 2003.

Frawley said that as of yesterday, the submitted version of the proposed ordinance has not been vetted by the town attorney.

Daigle said that while original Planning Department's draft was reviewed by counsel, the petitioned version was still undergoing a review.

Daigle said there would be only one public hearing on the petitioned article and the earliest it could be held is January 13, 2014.. She said that no changes can be made to a petitioned warrant article by any government agency or at the annual deliberative session.

She said the Planning Board will make a recommendation but only after the public hearing.