Town of Groton, MA
Middlesex County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Historic District Commission of the Town of Groton as indicated in article histories. Amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
Historic Districts and Commission — See Ch. 153.
Signs — See Ch. 196.
Zoning — See Ch. 218.
[Adopted 2-21-1985, as revised through 1988]

§ 360-1 Membership; terms.

A. 
The Commission shall consist of not fewer than three nor more than seven members: five shall be regular members, and two shall be alternates.
B. 
The Commission members shall be appointed by the Groton Board of Selectmen, and their names shall be available from the Selectmen's office.
C. 
Appointments shall be made for a period of three years and shall be so arranged that the term of at least one member expires each year. If a member resigns before the completion of his appointment, one of the alternates or a new member shall be appointed to fill out the resigning member's term.
D. 
Membership of the Commission shall include one or more residents or owners of property in an historic district administered by the Commission.
E. 
Membership of the Commission shall include, if possible, at least one architect.
F. 
Members of the Commission do not have to be residents of Groton.
G. 
The Commission members shall vote to elect a Chairman, a Vice Chairman and a Secretary once every year in June.

§ 360-2 Changes requiring approval.

A. 
Architectural alterations. All changes in the appearance of a building or a building site located within an historic district and visible from a public street shall require Commission approval. The following list of examples is provided only as a guide; it does not limit the scope of changes requiring approval to the examples cited. (See § 360-3 for exclusions.)
(1) 
The construction of a new structure.
(2) 
The demolition of an existing structure.
(3) 
The construction or removal of an addition.
(4) 
The construction or installation of a temporary structure or piece of equipment such as a dumpster.
(5) 
The reroofing, re-siding or repainting of a structure or parts thereof, except as noted in § 360-3.
(6) 
The installation of storm windows, storm doors, air conditioners, electric cables, light fixtures, electrical insect-killing devices, solar panels, electrical antennas, wind vanes, quadrants and commercial flags.
(7) 
The construction or alteration of driveways, gates, fences, walkways, terraces, steps, walls, barns, garages, mailboxes and gazebos.
(8) 
The addition, alteration or removal of windows, shutters, doors, porches, steps and chimneys.
B. 
Signs.
(1) 
With the exception of temporary political signs prior to elections; realty for-sale or for-rent signs; and community event signs for Town Meetings, church fairs, firemen's picnics, school plays and the like, the placement of permanent or temporary signs on or about any building or building site must be approved by the Commission. Note that all provisions of the Groton bylaws relating to signs must first be followed. The Commission's primary purpose in reviewing signs is to pass on the appropriateness of their design, size, color, execution and placement on their site.
(2) 
Although every sign will be reviewed for appropriateness in the context of its immediate environment, the following guidelines may be used in the preparation of preliminary designs:
(a) 
Black lettering on white ground is preferred.
(b) 
Minor use of colors and gold leaf shall be accepted.
(c) 
All lettering must be executed in a professional manner.
(d) 
Overall size should generally be smaller than that allowed by the Groton Zoning Bylaw.[1]
[1]
Editor's Note: See Ch. 218, Zoning.
C. 
Siding. The use of artificial clapboard siding (aluminum, vinyl or the like) shall not be approved for use on any structure in the historic districts.

§ 360-3 Changes not requiring approval.

Approval is not required for:
A. 
Exterior changes that cannot be seen from a public street, public way or public park.
B. 
Interior changes that cannot be seen from outside the building.
C. 
Repainting the same color. (However, sandblasting, as a preparation, shall not be allowed.)
D. 
Routine repairs not changing the exterior design appearance.
E. 
Removing existing signs.
F. 
Adding, removing or relocating trees, shrubs, flowers and other vegetation.

§ 360-4 Applications for approval.

A. 
Applications for approval of proposed changes may be obtained from the Town Clerk's office at the Town Hall on Main Street.
B. 
Applications must be signed by the owner, trustee or representative of the property concerned. Applications made out by a lessee will be accepted only when accompanied by an authorization signed by the property owner.
C. 
Completed applications received at the Town Clerk's office by the end of the week prior to the Commission's regular Tuesday meetings will be scheduled for hearing in the order received.
D. 
Applications for alterations liable to be of concern to abutters must be filed three weeks prior to the meetings so that notices can be sent to the abutters. Costs of notification shall be charged to the applicant.
E. 
If a prospective applicant wishes to discuss proposed alterations with the Commission before making a formal application, a place on the agenda may be reserved by telephoning the Chairman.
F. 
The agenda for each meeting and thus the time scheduled for each applicant shall be posted on the bulletin board at the Town Hall immediately prior to the meeting.
G. 
New applications and requests for preliminary hearings may also be given to the Commission at the start of any regularly scheduled meeting. If time permits, they shall be heard and acted upon after all previous business has been taken care of or at the discretion of the Chair. Otherwise, they shall be heard at the start of the next meeting.
H. 
All applications for a certificate of appropriateness must include the following:
(1) 
The completed application form.
(2) 
Photographs of the building or site before the proposed alteration.
(3) 
Scale drawings sufficient to describe in detail the work proposed.
(4) 
Paint color samples if the work includes repainting.
(5) 
Roofing samples or manufacturer's literature if the work includes roofing.
(6) 
Samples, colors and/or literature on all other proprietary materials or products that will be used and visible in the alteration.
(7) 
If the application concerns a sign, it shall include:
(a) 
A photograph of the proposed site of the sign.
(b) 
A drawing of the proposed support of the sign.
(c) 
A full-scale outline drawing of the sign.
(d) 
The words to be painted on the sign.
(e) 
The style, color, size and placement of the lettering.
(f) 
The name of the sign painter.
I. 
Although not required, the applicant's presence will usually expedite the review process and may result in the acceptance of an application that might otherwise have been disapproved for lack of complete information.
J. 
If an application does not contain enough information for the Commission to be able to determine the appropriateness of the proposed work, it may be:
(1) 
Discussed with the applicant, if present, in order to obtain the missing information.
(2) 
Returned to the applicant, if present, for withdrawal and reapplication at a later time.
(3) 
Voted on and disapproved as incomplete. In this case, all supporting material shall be returned to the applicant.
K. 
The Commission shall keep all approved applications in its files at the Town Hall. Samples of complete applications shall be available at the library for the benefit of prospective applicants.

§ 360-5 Regular meetings.

A. 
The Commission shall hold regular open public meetings starting at 7:30 p.m. on the third Tuesday of every month in the first-floor meeting room of the Town Hall. If the meeting immediately follows a public holiday celebrated on a Monday, it will start at 5:00 p.m. in order to clear the room for the Selectmen's meeting at 7:00 p.m.
B. 
Notice of the date, time and location of these public meetings shall be posted at the Town Hall 48 hours in advance of said meetings.
C. 
No meetings shall be held unless a quorum of three Commission members is present.
D. 
Every meeting shall start with the distribution of the agenda for that meeting.
E. 
The Commission shall then take up the review of applications in order of their original receipt, as scheduled on the agenda. Exceptional applications may be rescheduled for review at a special hearing.
F. 
If time remains, the Commission shall then review any applications that have been brought to the meeting without prior notice.
G. 
The next order of business shall be the review and acceptance of the prior meeting's minutes, followed by the disposition of matters old and new.
H. 
The Secretary of the Commission shall send copies of the meeting's minutes in timely fashion to all Commission members, the Selectmen and the Building Inspector. Copies of both the agenda and minutes shall also be filed at the library for the convenience of those interested in reviewing them.

§ 360-6 Special hearings.

A. 
A special hearing may be called by the Chairman, by majority vote of the Commission, for its own reasons or if requested by an applicant or aggrieved other party.
B. 
A special hearing may be called for one or more of the following reasons:
(1) 
Application is being made for an important new construction or alteration likely to be of general interest to the townspeople.
(2) 
The application being made is controversial and may require extended discussion.
(3) 
The alterations proposed are likely to be of concern to the abutters, and the application was not received in time to notify them 14 days prior to the meeting.
(4) 
The applicant wishes to receive a determination before the date of the next regular meeting.
(5) 
Any other reasons which the Chairman or a majority of the Commission members may reasonably have.
C. 
The time, place and purpose of a special hearing shall be posted at the Town Hall and advertised in a paper of local circulation at least 14 days before the hearing.
D. 
Copies of that advertisement shall be sent to the applicant, the abutters, the Board of Selectmen, the Planning Board and to such other persons as the Commission shall decide.
E. 
The costs of advertising shall be billed to the applicant.

§ 360-7 Ruling on application.

A. 
In reviewing each application, the Commission shall consider the historic and architectural value and significance of the site, building or structure involved; the general design, arrangement, texture, material and color of the features involved; and the relation of such features to similar features of buildings and structures in the surrounding area.
B. 
In the case of new construction or additions to existing buildings or structures, the Commission shall consider the appropriateness of the size, shape and design of the building or structure, both in relation to the land area upon which it is situated and to buildings and structures in the vicinity. The Commission may in appropriate cases impose dimensional and setback requirements in addition to those required by applicable ordinance or bylaw.
C. 
Members of the Commission are obliged by MGL C. 268A to abstain from deliberating and voting on an application in which they have a conflict of interest. Some examples would be:
(1) 
A member who is making an application.
(2) 
A member who is a relative, close friend, business associate or employee of the applicant.
(3) 
A member who is an abutter of the applicant.
(4) 
A member who has a financial interest in the outcome of the application.
D. 
If the Commission finds that some parts of the proposed changes outlined in an application are inappropriate, it will make every effort to suggest ways in which the application could be amended so that approval could be assured. Discussion among members and the applicant, if present, shall focus on arriving at a solution satisfying all concerned.
E. 
After adequate discussion or by the end of the time allotted to the application on the agenda, the Commission shall either vote on the application, postpone further consideration until the next meeting or request the application's withdrawal so that a revised application may be made at a future time.
F. 
Only five votes are counted. Alternate members shall vote only if the number of regular members voting is fewer than five. If both alternates are present and only one alternate vote is required, the alternates shall vote alternatively.
G. 
A majority vote shall carry. In the event of a tie, the vote of the acting Chairman shall carry.
H. 
The Secretary shall record each member's vote in the minutes.

§ 360-8 Certificate of appropriateness.

A. 
After approving an application, the Commission shall issue a certificate of appropriateness for the work proposed in that application. This certificate shall be sent to the applicant, with copies to the Selectmen and the Building Inspector.
B. 
Each certificate issued by the Commission shall be dated and signed by the Chairman or the Secretary and shall carry the name and telephone number of a Commission member through whom the applicant can maintain contact with the Commission during the term of the project.
C. 
Certificates of appropriateness are valid for the original applicant for a period of one year. If the work for which the certificate was granted has not been completed by the end of that time, application for an extension will have to be made.
D. 
If the property changes ownership and the new owners wish to complete changes previously approved, they must identify themselves to the Commission in order to receive a new certificate of appropriateness in their own name.
E. 
Any applicant wishing to make design changes after a certificate of appropriateness has been issued must file a new application for those changes and receive a certificate of appropriateness covering those changes before making them.
F. 
In the case of an application which has been disapproved, the Commission shall record the reasons for such a determination and shall send a notice of these reasons to the applicant. Copies of this document shall be sent to the Board of Selectmen and the Building Inspector.
G. 
Any person wishing to contest the approval or disapproval of an application for a certificate of appropriateness may have recourse to the remedies noted in MGL C. 40C, § 12A.

§ 360-9 Action upon completion of work.

A. 
When the work for which a certificate of appropriateness was granted has been completed, the applicant shall notify the Commission member whose name and telephone number appear on the certificate in order to schedule a review of the work.
B. 
Before the next regular meeting, one or more members of the Commission shall review the work on site in order to find out if it has been carried out as originally approved.
C. 
If the work matches the approved application, the Commission shall send a signed report to that effect to the applicant, the Selectmen and the Building Inspector. The issuance of this notice closes the file on the application.
D. 
If the work does not match the approved application and the Commission finds the changes allowable, the Commission shall request the applicant to file a new application covering those changes before the next regular meeting.
E. 
If the Commission finds the changes unallowable, it shall request the applicant to have the work corrected.
F. 
In the event that the applicant fails to correct the work in a timely fashion, the Commission shall have recourse to the provisions of enforcement authorized in MGL C. 40C, § 13.

§ 360-10 Enforcement.

If unapproved work is carried out in the historic districts, the owner of the property involved shall be held responsible. Violations of the Groton Historic Districts Bylaw[1] shall result in a letter of warning being sent to the owner, with copies to the Selectmen and the Building Inspector. If the owner, owner's agent or lessee continues to violate the provisions of MGL C. 40C, these rules and regulations or the decisions of this Commission, resort shall be made to fines or injunctions, or both, as authorized in the Historic Districts Act, MGL C. 40C, § 13.
[1]
Editor's Note: See Ch. 153, Historic Districts and Commission.