Montague Historical Commission advances demo-delay bylaw

  • The vacant Farren Care Center in Montague.  STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Montague Town Hall in Turners Falls. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 3/29/2022 11:55:02 AM
Modified: 3/29/2022 11:54:06 AM

MONTAGUE — The Historical Commission voted unanimously to accept the proposed demolition delay bylaw as written during its special meeting on Monday.

The Montague Historical Commission’s discussion of the bylaw, which had been derived from the Massachusetts Historical Commission’s language and later vetted by town counsel, was intended to “make sure (Commissioners) are speaking relatively and with consensus” prior to its public hearing slated for Thursday at 11 a.m., according to Chair David Brule.

All members expressed support for the idea, but members Ed Gregory and Chris Clawson voiced a desire to further dissect the draft’s legal jargon beyond Monday’s decision, hoping to gain a better understanding in case the commission feels at some point a change to the bylaw must be made. Barring changes made following Thursday’s public hearing, the bylaw will be positioned for the Selectboard to place it on the May 7 Annual Town Meeting warrant.

The bylaw’s purpose would be to “preserve and protect, through advance notice of their proposed demolition, significant buildings,” as written in the draft bylaw. The draft states this would “encourage owners of preferably preserved significant buildings to seek out persons who might be willing to purchase and to preserve, rehabilitate or restore such buildings rather than demolish them.”

“For the most part, I think it does protect our historical stock in the town of Montague because we are blessed with so many historical buildings,” Historical Commission member Christopher Sawyer-Lauçanno said.

Leveraging his advocacy for the bylaw’s adoption by arguing that Montague would merely be “catching up to 150 other towns in the state that already have demo-delay bylaws in place,” Sawyer-Lauçanno expressed confidence that the bylaw would generally be flexible to work with in a productive way.

“It can be a useful tool, but it is simply a tool, and our demo-delay bylaw is slightly more restrictive than in other towns. ...” Sawyer-Lauçanno said. “I’m not by any means opposed to buildings being torn down if they’re beyond repair and I don’t think our Historical Commission would do that either.”

Sawyer-Lauçanno advised against any significant changes being made to the language of the bylaw because it has already be reviewed by town counsel and would need to go through the process again should it be altered. Despite wanting to “reserve the right, or the opportunity maybe, to amend this,” Gregory clarified that he was confident in how thorough the process has been to this point.

“I’m not against this,” Gregory said. “I think it was a lengthy amount of time for those involved to draft this thing.”

Clawson seconded Gregory’s sentiments, saying that he is “inclined to go along with this process,” but that there are “ambiguities in (the draft) that may need to be resolved” at some point.

While the bylaw discussion was rekindled amid Farren-related controversy, Sawyer-Lauçanno said previously, a bylaw implemented in Montague would likely not come in time to apply to the situation. The bylaw would go into effect after the period in which parent company Trinity Health of New England could request a demolition permit from the building inspector, which would have to be granted.

Thursday’s 11 a.m. public hearing will take place in-person at Town Hall’s second-floor meeting room and over Zoom at bit.ly/3NEaO42.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.


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