By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Northborough – The voters at the Annual Town Meeting (ATM) April 29 passed a motion to “move” an article that would establish White Cliffs as a historic district. This was done at the request of the Historic District Commission who said the property’s owners and the town have agreed to extend the demolition delay bylaw until Dec. 31, 2015.
Until the ATM, the delay was due to run out this June, which would have given the owners, the LaCava family, the right to demolish the building. However, if the original article had passed at the ATM, and the property was established as a historic district, neither the current owners or any future owners would have been allowed to change the street view of the property.
The property originally went on the market in 2014 but there have been no offers since that time, according Michael Durkin, a Realtor with LAER Realty Partners, who is representing the LaCavas. Because of that, in January the owners notified the town they were going to apply for a demolition permit.
By a unanimous vote during a public hearing Feb. 12, the Northborough Historical Commission passed a measure to extend the town’s demolition delay ruling for the White Cliffs property to the full 180 days. At that time, the commission said they would pursue establishing the property as a historic district.
During a public hearing April 21, the Northborough Historic District Commission unanimously approved recommending to ATM voters that White Cliffs become a historic district. The measure needed to pass at ATM by a two thirds majority vote.
At the ATM, Town Administrator John Coderre said the town would work with the owners on several options that could possibly save the property from demolition. One option is pursuing a Preservation Restriction on the property which could then offer the chance of the owner applying for Community Preservation Act funds or other grant monies. Another option might be a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) agreement, which would “forgive” any taxes on any future improvements.
Coderre said the town may also consider doing a historic market analysis on the property to see if it had any true economically viable uses.
“If it’s not economically viable then you will just see a beautiful building crumble,” he said.
One resident, Aaron Hutchins, noted the owners were opposed to establishing White Cliffs as a historic district. He then asked if the town was facing any potential litigation.
Coderre said although there was always that potential, at this time there was none.
Although two residents spoke in favor of the voters going ahead and voting on the original article, the motion to pass over the article was approved.