PROTEST AGAINST proposed changes to the  Somerville “Demolition Review Ordinance.”

Eternally vigilant, fighting for your small property owner rights.

Multi-unit apartments, condos, and singles.

Owners of all 75-year-old houses or older and commercial properties as well in Somerville should PROTEST AGAINST proposed changes to the  Somerville “Demolition Review Ordinance.” 

Attend the hearing next Monday, July 9, 6 p.m. at Somerville City Hall!

All property owners in Massachusetts: BEWARE! This proposal could come to your city or town once approved in Somerville.

If you think this “Demolition Review Ordinance” has to do with demolition only, you are wrong! It has to do with interior renovations and what used to be “as-of-right” additions if you cover up too much of your original building!! 

The proposal is deceptively named. It flies under the radar as a silent assassin of every homeowner’s rights.

NO! My Home is Mine!

The proposed new Demolition Review Ordinance applies to almost all buildings in Somerville! They will be “historically controlled.” It’s a “citywide historic district”!

Its strong limitations and requirements will determine what you can do and cannot do with your property.

Who wants to buy a property at top dollar with all these new limitations and burdens? 

The sales value of your property will drop, and its assessed value will drop. But you won’t save a penny on taxes since the city needs to maintain its budget — and even expand it to cover the increased cost of the extensive bureaucracy needed to administer the proposed changes. Owners of more modern buildings: Watch out! Your taxes will skyrocket to make up for the devaluation of all older buildings!

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It’s a dangerous precedent that would easily spread to Boston, Cambridge, or any municipality in Massachusetts. All owners receiving this Action Alert should TAKE ACTION! Call and email the Somerville Aldermen (contact info below) and attend the July 9 hearing. Pass this email on to other landlords you know!

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The changes go far beyond what we usually mean by “demolition.”

• The changes would apply to all 75-year-old properties or older.

• EVERY building permit will require a hearing to determine whether the property is historically “significant.” 

• The Somerville Historic Preservation Commission, a small group of carefully selected individuals with a zeal for preservation, will decide the fate of your building. ISD also gets involved in reviewing every building permit for the new requirements.

• Anything can qualify as historically “significant.” As the proposal says, it’s “significant” if it is “associated with one or more important historic persons or events, or with the broad architectural, cultural, political, economic or social history of the City or Massachusetts.” What’s “broad”? Almost anything!

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TAKE ACTION! Every property owner in Massachusetts could eventually be under this kind of historical control. We must stop it NOW! SEE CONTACT INFO BELOW.

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Slippery language can easily trap you. Here’s the fine print!

Supposedly, the proposal would apply only to changes to more than 25% of the exterior (that’s everything: foundation, siding, roof, windows, all the surfaces of porches, and more). 

AND it applies to a 25% change or more in the building’s             VOLUME. That word VOLUME  is a very tricky word, with no definitions provided.

Supposedly, interior renovation is not covered — EXCEPT when the structural “integrity of the building is at risk.” Of course, almost anything can be related to structural integrity. 

If you take down an interior wall and make one big room, is that hurting structural integrity? Is that more than 25% of volume? 

The word  “VOLUME” clearly applies to a building’s interior,   

giving wide latitude to the Historical Commission on what it can regulate inside and on the outside your building. Or more accurately, on what the Commission alone decides it can regulate. Lots of details are left up to the Commission, and who wants to pay a lawyer to challenge them in court?

Then the proposal EXPANDS the meaning of “demolition” in three ways: “Serial Demolition means ongoing demolition in stages over any time period of 5 years or less where several small demolitions accrete [amount to] 25% or more of the volume or exterior surfaces of the building.” That means that any change you want to make, interior or exterior, needs to be calculated as to the “volume” and exterior surface it affects and whether it’s too much to do within any 5-year period added to everything you have already done, before a building permit is issued. 

The proposal also includes “Illegal Demolition,” done without a permit, and “Demolition by Neglect.” “Neglect” is defined as “intentional.” If you can’t afford to fix up a building according to the new standards, you will be 

intentionally violating t

he proposed ordinance. At what point does

deterioration become “demolition”!?!?  

  

The Historical Commission alone gets to decide, and the proposal never explicitly gives owners a right to appeal decisions in court.

If any structural issue is involved, the owner must provide and pay for: “an independent licensed structural engineer’s report, from a qualified and experienced structural engineer with proven expertise in historic building techniques.” That’s a very high-priced expert you must pay for, who will run up the costs of your proposed improvement.

In other words, any work you want to do will take a lot longer time

to get approval from the Hysterical Commission and then get approval for a building permit from ISD. Your construction costs will escalate with these delays and with all the historical requirements imposed on your building permit. THAT’S WHY YOUR PROPERTY WILL LOSE VALUE, YET COST YOU MORE. And then what happens? The proposal will ACCELERATE DETERIORATION in Somerville’s older buildings because of all the new costs and hurdles in getting a permit that owners will avoid.

If you can’t afford to do the required work, the Historical Commission will gladly help you find a buyer who can afford it, and virtually force you to sell to that person — at a loss because of all the new limitations and requirements. Only higher-class people with money to spare will be able to afford to own or rent in Somerville. Tenants will pay in higher rents for all these requirements imposed on their building.

READ THE PROPOSED ORDINANCE HERE:

https://www.somervillema.gov/sites/default/files/demo-review-ordinance-revisions-sept-2017.pdf

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GO TO THE HEARING:

Next Monday, July 9, starting at 6:00 p.m. in the Aldermanic Chamber at Somerville City Hall, 93 Highland Avenue, Somerville.

EMAIL ALL THE ALDERMEN:

boardofaldermen@somervillema.gov  CLICK THE LINK. This one email address goes to all the Aldermen at once.

SIGN THE I-PETITION: 

Click on the link here, or copy and paste the following into your browser: 

 https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/historic-protects-historic-only

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