A Brief History and Explanation of the Demolition Delay By-law in Weston.
Prior to the enactment of the Demolition Delay By-law, many of Weston’s historical structures were razed without warning, leaving no trace of their heritage or contribution to the town.
The Demolition Delay By-law was voted into law at Town Meeting in May of 1998 to impose a waiting period of six months before all or part of “significant” buildings can be destroyed. Buildings qualifying for a demolition delay must have been constructed by 1945 and be deemed “significant” by the Weston Historical Commission. Many factors can contribute to a building’s significance, including architectural integrity, historical interest, location on a designated Scenic Road, or location within a designated Historic Area or National Register District.
The by-law cannot prevent destruction of any building in Weston, even one of outstanding significance listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It does, however, give the historical commission some time to explore preservation solutions for threatened properties.
To obtain permission to tear down all or part of any Weston building, the owner must fill out a Demolition Application at the Building Inspector’s office at Town Hall. If the building was constructed prior to 1945, the historical commission is notified of the application. Within 21 business days of receipt of this notice, the commission must hold an “initial determination meeting” to determine whether the building falls into one of the categories listed above.
If, at the initial determination meeting, the commission determines that the building is historically significant, a public hearing must be held within 30 days. The commission must advertise in the local paper and notify neighbors. They also begin a dialogue with the applicant with the goal of reaching agreement on the future of the building. Most partial demolition applications are finalized at the public hearing. For total demolitions and difficult partial demolitions, the by-law allows for up to six months for the negotiation process and prohibits demolition during this time if agreement is not reached. If there is no agreement by the end of the six-month period, demolition may proceed without restriction by the commission.
Although it cannot ultimately prevent a building’s demolition, the Demolition Delay By-Law gives the historical commission an opportunity to work proactively and creatively to preserve the most important examples of Weston’s valuable historical legacy. Demolition delays are seldom imposed, and when they are imposed, rarely last the full six months permitted under the by-law.