Reply To Letter to the Editor: Regarding Published Misinformation Regarding Demolition Review/Mr. Bingham’s Letter to the Board of Alderman

Thank you Mark (cc All Alderman, Goran Smiljic, Building Inspectors, The Somerville News Weekly, and Zone Smart Somerville, Attorney Joel Rosen, Attorney Dave Shapiro ),

Mr. Bingham’s letter to the Board of Alderman (in the email below) is fascinating.  It makes entirely false statements about the proposed demolition review ordinance (I can easily refute them).

Allow me to focus the conversation on just one of Mr. Bingham’s many False Statements:

Mr. Bingham States in his very first point (point a):

“a.) The ordinance is only about demolition of historic structures, not about development. The commission has no purview over what can be constructed on a site post demolition. Development falls under zoning, not historic preservation. “

Alderman….is his statement correct?  It is not!  Because he wrote the words only about demolition.”   That means that an owner ONLY obtained a “DEMOLITION PERMIT.”

This new proposal has new KILLER terms:  “Partial” Demolition and “Serial” Demolition…and they SHOCKINGLY have nothing to do with a demolition permit!  They do not even require a demolition permit!

PARTIAL DEMOLITION:  Is what every building permit does during construction of say…..a new roof…new siding….a dormer….a rear addition (some PARTIAL DEMOLITION occurs as part of everybuilding permit).

SERIAL DEMOLITION:  Is the sum of all building permits’ “partial demolitions” over the span of the last 5 years.  If they sum to 25% of the building SURFACE, you are under historic preservation control.  That could be simply changing your roof shingles one year, maybe adding a dormer at the same time, and then wanting to repair your rotting porch the next year……only to find out you hit 25%….and now you have to go to historic for a by-right building permit….that is NOT DEMOLITION.

So actually, Partial and Serial Demolition are now controlling Building Permits!  This can delay building permits for up to 24 months!?  It is a 30 day by-right permit!

We have therefore changed the definition of DEMOLITION…..and made it CONSTRUCTION….and this is deceptive.  Perhaps Mr. Bingham even deceived himself into believing it is “only about demolition”  as he called it.

So the question to the board is:

1.  Do you feel that Mr. Binghams letter is honest… it “only about demolition”

2.  Or do you instead recognize that the term “Partial Demolition” actually does not require a demolition permit, and is actually under a construction permit……therefore it is NOT “only about demolition”….it  also controls by right CONSTRUCTION.

3.  Shouldn’t the Historic Commission simply identify historic properties, and protect them…..instead of making everyone wonder what the “mood” of the historic officer is?  Wondering what their real property rights are?

For your convenience, I have attached the proposed ordinance definitions for partial and serial definition to this email.

Goran and the other building inspectors will LOVE IT when they have to start figuring out if they can issue a “by-right” building permit by calculating if 25% surface changes occurred over 5 years….Was that 24.9% or 25% Goran?  What nonsense that would be for ISD.  And then people will just not do work on their houses or sneak the work in….it is over-regulation….it is out of control….the zoning code is all that should control for by right building permits on houses that have not been pre-determined to be Historic.

So please Alderman……when can we have our ward meetings on this?  Again….we will publish your answers on Tuesday in the Somerville News Weekly.


Mouhab Z. Rizkallah

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