By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – Members of the newly formed Historic Preservation Committee met with the Board of Selectmen at their March 12 meeting to request their approval for a Historic Preservation Bylaw be included in the May Annual Town Meeting Warrant.
After a lengthy discussion that at times became heated, the board decided to continue its decision until their March 26 meeting, fully realizing that the deadline for a citizen’s petition is March 19 and that the committee could gain the 10 signatures needed by that date.
Established by the board last March, the committee was represented by Chair Bob Ryan and Vice Chair Bernie Forletta. Several members were also in attendance.
Forletta provided a summary of the work done since the nine-member committee first met in August. It has studied similar bylaws in other communities as well as researched the Community Preservation Act (CPA).
The process for the demolition delay begins when a property owner submits an application to the town building inspector. If the application meets requirements for the delay, the building inspector then forwards the application to the Shrewsbury Historical Commission (SHC).
Once the SHC determines the building’s historical significance, findings are then sent back to the building inspector. If the building is of historic significance, a public hearing is then scheduled to hear residents’ opinions on the proposed delay.
The SHC will then vote on whether the building should be preserved. If so, a 12-month delay is initiated. If not, the building inspector issues the demolition permit.
At the conclusion of the presentation, Selectman Moira Miller inquired whether the committee had looked at other alternatives that property owners could use to avoid demolition, such as incentives.
Ryan replied that because Shrewsbury didn’t have a Community Preservation Act, there weren’t any resources available to offer incentives to property owners.
“There were a variety of ideas offered that were from the viewpoint of incentive that were outright rejected. The route that immediately attracted and that the majority coalesced around was the demolition delay bylaw,” said Selectman Jim Kane, committee member. “This in my opinion is slightly rehashed of the one we saw not too long ago…I did not vote to support this report to the Board of Selectmen.”
Selectman Maurice DePalo had several concerns and comments including what the committee has done relative to seeking grants.
“If we are going to apply for any grants at the state level we want to ensure that this bylaw is in place and we feel its going to help us a great deal to help us have some funds available and to reach out to folks to incentivize them,” replied Paul Schwab, SHC vice chair.
Other issues or concerns included criteria for determining which buildings in town that the bylaw might pertain to.
“If we care about this and we have a $130 million budget, why don’t we put $50,000 in next year and do an assessment so that we are knowledgeable of what we are talking about?” suggested Selectman Jim Kane.
Selectman Beth Casavant wondered whether or not the current Beal School would fall under the category of properties to preserve within the confines of this bylaw. She also didn’t think that this bylaw “was ready for primetime.”