Somerville Public Hearing on Union Square Neighborhood Council Designation, ‪July 9, 6:45 p.m.‬

Revised ordinance would regulate the demolition request process for homes 75 years of age or older

Members of the public are invited to attend and speak at a July 9 Public Hearing on proposed changes to the Demolition Review Ordinance, which currently regulates the demolition of structures 50 years of age or older that are not within an existing Local Historic District. The hearing, held by the Board of Aldermen Legislative Matters Committee of the Whole, will take place Monday, July 9, 6 p.m., at City Hall in the Aldermanic Chambers. At 6 p.m., the hearing will be preceded by  a presentation on the ordinance by Director of Planning George Proakis.

Currently, structures in Somerville may be protected from demolition by one of two means: Local Historic District designation (which can prevent demolition) or Demolition Review (which can pause demolition while all parties explore mutually agreeable and voluntary alternatives to demolition).

Over 140 Massachusetts communities have approved demolition review ordinances. When a structure is proposed to be demolished, these ordinances allow a local Historic Preservation Commission to determine if the structure is important to a community’s history and culture and therefore subject it to a demolition review period.

Based on a multi-pronged public process involving the City Planning Department and the Historic Preservation Commission, changes to the existing Demolition Review ordinance have been proposed.

Amendments include, but are not limited to:

• developing an ordinance that establishes a more straightforward process, is easier to read, and includes clear definitions;

• extending the review period from 9 months to either 12 or 24 months depending on the property;

• clarifying the circumstances where a property is subject to demolition review, by including partial demolition (demolition of 25% or more of a property) and serial demolition (demolition over a period of time);

• providing an exception from the review of partial demolition for minor projects (for example, projects to add a dormer or porch);

• requiring earlier and broader notification of abutters during the review process;

• raising the building age trigger from 50 to 75 years;

• expanding the list of exempt areas (currently Assembly Square and Innerbelt), to also include portions of Brickbottom, Boynton Yards, the development blocks in Union Square, and the Twin City mall; and,

• exempting city-owned structures, but subjecting them to a nonbinding review by the Historic Preservation Commission.

To review the draft ordinance and related materials in advance, please visit www.somervillema.gov/dro.

Public testimony at the hearing will be limited to two minutes per person. Written testimony may be submitted to boardofaldermen@somervillema.gov and cityclerk@somervillema.gov. As the Chair expects that deliberation will occur at the July 9th meeting, members of the public are encouraged to submit written testimony at least several days before the Public Hearing, but written testimony for the record will be accepted at any time.

Individuals with disabilities who need auxiliary aids and services for effective communication, written materials in alternative formats, or reasonable modifications in policies and procedures, in order to access the programs and activities of the City of Somerville or to attend meetings, should contact the City’s ADA Coordinator, NencySalamoun, at 617-625-6600 x2323 or NSalamoun@somervillema.gov.

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