[HISTORY: Adopted by the Annual Town Meeting of the Town of North Reading 10-7-1993 by Art. 4, approved 1-11-1994. Amendments noted where applicable.]
This bylaw shall be known and may be cited as the Historic District Bylaw of the Town of North Reading, Massachusetts.
The purpose of this bylaw is to promote the educational, cultural, economic, and general welfare of the community by:
Providing a mechanism to identify and preserve the distinctive historic and architectural characteristics of North Reading which represent elements of the Town's cultural, social, economic and political and architectural history;
Fostering civic pride in the beauty and noble accomplishments of the past as represented in North Reading's landmarks and historic districts;
Conserving and improving the value of property designated as landmarks or that reside within historic districts;
Protecting and enhancing the attractiveness of the Town to home buyers, tourists, visitors, and shoppers, and thereby supporting and promoting business, commerce and industry, as well as providing economic benefit to the Town.
Fostering and encouraging preservation, restoration, and rehabilitation of structures, areas, and neighborhoods and thereby preventing future urban blight.
This Historic District Bylaw is adopted pursuant to the authority granted by Chapter 40C of the General Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as amended.
Unless specifically defined below, words or phrases in this bylaw shall be interpreted so as to give them the same meaning as they have in common usage and so to give this bylaw its most reasonable application.
- Any act or process that changes one or more of the exterior architectural features of a structure, including, but not limited to, the erection, construction, reconstruction, rebuilding, restoration, removal or demolition of any structure.
- A specific geographic division of the Town of North Reading.
- A combination of materials forming a shelter for persons, animals, or property.
- CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS
- A certificate issued by the Historic District Commission indicating its approval of plans for alteration, construction, removal, or demolition of a building or of a structure within a historic district.
- CERTIFICATE OF HARDSHIP
- A certificate issued by the Historic District Commission authorizing an alteration, construction, removal, or demolition.
- CERTIFICATE OF NON-APPLICABILITY
- A certificate issued by the Historic District Commission indicating that a proposed activity does not require Historic District Commission authorization or approval.
- Member of the North Reading Historic District Commission.
- The act of adding a structural addition to an existing building or structure or the erection of a new principal or accessory structure on a lot or property and includes the words build, erect, install, enlarge, and move.
- Any act or process that destroys in part or in whole a building or a structure within a historic district.
- DESIGN GUIDELINE
- A standard of appropriate activity that will preserve the historic and architectural character of a structure or area.
- EXTERIOR ARCHITECTURAL APPEARANCE
- The architectural character and general composition of the exterior of a structure, including but not limited to the kind, color, and texture of the building material and the type, design and character of all windows, doors, light fixtures, signs, and appurtenant elements visible from any public way.
- EXTERIOR ARCHITECTURAL FEATURE
- Such portion of the exterior of a building or structure as is open to view from a public street, public way, public park, or public body of water, including but not limited to the architectural style and general arrangement and setting thereof, the kind, color and texture of exterior building materials, the color of paint or other materials applied to exterior surfaces and the type and style of windows, doors, lights, signs, and other appurtenant exterior fixtures.
- HISTORIC DISTRICT
- An area designated as a "historic district" by North Reading Town Meeting.
- OWNER OF RECORD
- With respect to land located in North Reading, the person, corporation, or other legal entity listed as owner on the records of the Middlesex South District Registry of Deeds.
- PARTY AGGRIEVED
- Applicant, owner of adjoining property, an owner of property within the same historic district as property within 100 feet of said property lines or others as described in MGL c. 40C, § 5.
- Any relocation of a building or structure on its site or to another site.
- Any change that is not construction, removal, or alteration.
- Any combination of materials other than a building, including a sign, fence, wall, terrace, walk or driveway.
Membership. There is hereby established an historic district commission to be known as the Historic District Commission consisting of seven (7) residents all of whom shall be appointed by the Select Board, including when possible one (1) of two nominees representing the North Reading Historical and Antiquarian Society from a list of nominees submitted by said organization; one (1) of two nominees representing the local Board of Realtors from a list of nominees submitted by said organization; one (1) of two nominees representing the American Institute of Architects from a list of nominees submitted by said organization; one (1) member who is a resident and/or property owner in an historic district and three (3) members who are residents of the town at-large. All requests to the above organizations for nominees shall require a response within 30 days. In the event of no response, the Select Board shall appoint any qualified resident.
[Amended 4-11-1996 ATM by Art. 19, approved 7-22-1996; 6-4-2018 ATM by Art. 28, approved 9-21-2018]
Terms of office. The term of office of the members of the Historic District Commission shall be for three (3) years, excepting that the initial membership of the Historic District Commission shall serve respectively for terms as follows: two (2) members shall be appointed for one (1) year; two (2) members shall be appointed for two (2) years; and three (3) members shall be appointed for three (3) years. Successors shall each be appointed for a term of three (3) years. Vacancies shall be filled within sixty (60) days by the Select Board by appointment to the unexpired term. A maximum of three alternate members shall be appointed to serve on the Commission. In the absence of, or the disqualification of the regular members, alternates shall be voting members. Terms of office for alternate members shall be for one (1) year.
[Amended 4-11-1996 ATM by Art. 19, approved 7-22-1996; 6-4-2018 ATM by Art. 28, approved 9-21-2018]
Compensation. All members and alternate members shall serve without compensation.
Officers. Officers shall consist of a Chairman, a Vice-Chairman, and a Clerk elected by the members who each shall serve a term of one (1) year and shall be eligible for re-election. The Chairman shall preside over meetings. In the absence of the Chairman, the Vice-Chairman shall perform the duties of the Chairman. If both are absent, a Temporary Chairman shall be elected by those present. The Clerk to the Historic District Commission shall have the following duties.
Take minutes of each Historic District Commission meeting;
Be responsible for publication and distribution of copies of the minutes, reports, and decisions of the Historic District Commission to the members of the Historic District Commission;
Give notice as provided herein or by law for all public hearings conducted by the Historic District Commission;
Advise the Select Board of vacancies on the Historic District Commission and expiring terms of members; and
[Amended 6-4-2018 ATM by Art. 28, approved 9-21-2018]
Prepare and submit to the annual town report a complete record of the proceedings before the Historic District Commission.
Meetings. A quorum shall consist of a majority of the members. All decisions or actions of the Historic District Commission shall be made by a majority vote of those members present and voting at any meeting where a quorum exists. Meetings shall be held at regularly scheduled times to be established by resolution of the Historic District Commission at the beginning of each calendar year or at any time upon the call of the Chairman. No action shall be taken by the Commission that could in any manner deprive or restrict the owner of a property in its use, modification, maintenance, disposition, or demolition until such owner shall first have had the opportunity to be heard at a public meeting of the Historic District Commission, as provided herein. All meetings of the Historic District Commission shall be open to the public. The Historic District Commission shall keep minutes of its proceedings showing the vote, indicating such facts, and shall keep records of its examinations and other official actions, all of which shall be filed in the office of the Town Clerk and shall be a public record.
Conflict of interest. No member of the Historic District Commission shall vote on any matter that may materially or apparently affect the property, income, or business interest of that member.
Powers and duties. The Historic District Commission shall have all the powers and duties of Historic District Commissions pursuant to MGL c. 40C and subsequent amendments thereto. Unless specifically limited by this bylaw, the Commission shall have regulatory control over new construction, reconstruction, alterations, removals, and demolition of all exterior architectural features of buildings and structures within the historic district. In addition, the Historic District Commission shall have the following powers and duties:
To adopt its own procedural rules and regulations not inconsistent with the provisions of the Historic District Act or this Historic District Bylaw;
To recommend to the Town Meeting the establishment of areas having special historic, community or architectural value as "Historic Districts";
To keep a register of all properties and structures that have been designated as historic districts, including copies of all information required for each designation;
To hold public hearings and to review applications for construction, alteration, removal, or demolition affecting proposed or designated buildings or structures within historic districts and issue or deny certificates of appropriateness for such actions. Applicants may be required to submit plans, drawings, elevations, specifications, and other information as may be necessary to make decisions;
To consider applications for certificates of hardship that would allow the performance of work for which a certificate of appropriateness has been denied;
To develop specific design guidelines for the alteration, construction, or removal of buildings and structures within historic districts;
To review proposed zoning amendments, applications for special use permits, or applications for zoning variances that affect proposed or designated historic districts. The Community Planning Commission or Zoning Board of Appeals shall send applications for subdivisions, special permits, or variances to the Historic District Commission for comment prior to the date of the hearing;
To call upon available Town staff members as well as other experts for technical advice;
To retain such specialists or consultants or to appoint such citizen advisory committees as may be required from time to time;
To periodically review the North Reading Zoning Bylaw and to recommend to the Community Planning Commission any amendments appropriate for the protection and continued use of property and structures within historic districts; and
To undertake any other action or activity necessary or appropriate to the implementation of its powers and duties or to implementation of the purpose of this bylaw.
Name of district. There is hereby established an historic district in the Town of North Reading as shown on the Historic District Map and designated as follows: Center Village Historic District - CVHD.
Area of district. The historic district is herein established as an overlay district. The exact boundary lines of the district shall be determined by the center of the solid boundary line(s) as shown on the Historic District Map.
Historic District Map.
The Historic District Map dated September 1, 1993, along with district boundaries prepared by the Historic District Study Committee and superimposed over the Town of North Reading's Assessor's Map is hereby made a part of this bylaw and is on file with the Middlesex South District Registry of Deeds and the North Reading Town Clerk.
Where the boundary lines are shown upon said map within the right-of-way lines of public and private ways, the center lines of such ways shall be the boundary lines.
Boundary lines located outside of such side lines of public or private ways and shown approximately parallel thereto shall be regarded as parallel to such side lines, and dimensions shown in figures placed upon said map between such boundary lines and side lines of public and private ways are the distance in feet of such boundary lines from such side lines, such distance being measured at right angles to such side lines unless otherwise indicated.
Where the boundary lines shown are approximately on the location of property or lot lines, and the exact location of the district or area boundary lines is not indicated by means of dimensions shown in figures, then the property or lot lines shall be the boundary lines.
In all cases which are not covered by other provisions of this section, the location of boundary lines shall be determined by the distance in feet, if given, from other lines upon said map, by the use of identifications as shown on the map, or by the scale of the map.
Certificates. Except as this bylaw provides no building or structure within an historic district shall be constructed or altered in any way that affects exterior architectural features unless the Commission shall first have issued a certificate of appropriateness, a certificate of non-applicability, or a certificate of hardship with respect to such construction or alteration; nor shall any building permit or permit for demolition be issued by the Town or any department thereof for any building or structure within an historic district until the certificate required by this section has been issued by the Commission.
Applications for certificates shall be filed with the Historic District Commission in the Community Planning Commission's office. Eight copies of all application materials shall be submitted in the form specified by the Historic District Commission, and shall include site plans, elevations and construction plans, drawn to scale, detailed enough to show the architectural design of the structure and its relation to existing buildings, and other materials deemed necessary by the Commission. Plot and site plans should be filed when the applicant proposes improvements affecting appearances, such as walks, fences, steps, and paving. In the case of demolition or removal, the applicant must include a statement of the proposed condition and appearance of the property thereafter.
All site plans shall be signed and stamped by a registered land surveyor; all architectural plans shall be signed and stamped by a registered architect.
Initial review. Within fourteen (14) days of the filing of the application for any certificate, a determination shall be made as to whether the application involves any exterior architectural features which are subject to review and/or approval by the Commission.
Public hearing. If the application requires the Commission's review, or at the request of the applicant, the Commission shall hold a public hearing, unless waived according to the Historic District Act, MGL c. 40C, as amended. Public notice of the time, place and purpose of the hearing shall be given at least fourteen (14) days in advance and the Commission shall mail notice to all affected parties by certified mail as provided in the Historic District Act as amended.
The Commission shall make a final determination on an application within sixty (60) days of the filing or within such further time as the applicant may allow in writing.
Written notice of the approval or denial of the application for a certificate of appropriateness shall be provided to the applicant and the Building Department within ten (10) days following the determination and shall be accompanied by a certificate of appropriateness in the case of an approval.
[Added 10-2-2000 ATM by Art. 9, approved 3-29-2001]
Conditions of approval. In deciding upon matters before it, the Commission shall consider, among other things, the historic and architectural value and significance of the site, building or structure; 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. In the case of new construction or additions to existing buildings or structures, the Commission shall consider the appropriateness of the size, shape, and material of the building or structure both in relation to the land area upon which the building or structure is situated and to the buildings or structures in the vicinity, and the Commission may, in appropriate cases, impose dimensional and setback requirements in addition to those required by applicable zoning bylaws.
Recommendations and requirements. The Historic District Commission shall not make any recommendations or requirements with regard to new construction, reconstruction, or additions, except for the purpose of preventing development incongruous with the historic aspects and/or architectural characteristics of the surroundings and of the historic district.
Changes in material. Any change in material, including, but not limited to, the painting of a previously unpainted surface, the removal of paint from a previously painted surface, or the covering of a surface with artificial siding, shall require the review and approval of the Historic District Commission as set forth in this bylaw.
Denial of a certificate of appropriateness.
A denial of a certificate of appropriateness shall be accompanied by a statement of the reasons for the denial. The Historic District Commission shall make recommendations to the applicant concerning changes, if any, in the proposed action that would cause the Historic District Commission to reconsider its denial and shall confer with the applicant and attempt to resolve as quickly as possible the differences between the owner and the Historic District Commission. The applicant may resubmit an amended application within fourteen (14) days that takes into consideration the recommendations of the Historic District Commission.
Each certificate shall be dated and signed and the Commission shall keep a permanent record of its determinations and of the vote of each member participating therein, and shall file a copy of notice of certificates and determinations or disapprovals with the Town Clerk and Building Inspector.
Certificate of hardship.
If an application is deemed inappropriate or if application is specifically made for a certificate of hardship, the Commission may issue a certificate of hardship if conditions especially affecting the building or structure involved, but not affecting the historic district generally, would result in a substantial hardship to the applicant and if approval would not result in a substantial detriment to the public welfare or substantially derogate from the intent and purposes of the Historic District Act. A certificate of hardship shall also be issued in the event that the Commission does not make a determination on an application within the time specified in this bylaw.
Application for certificate of hardship shall be made on a form prepared by the Historic District Commission. The Historic District Commission shall schedule a public hearing concerning the application and provide notice in the same manner as described above, and any person may testify at the hearing concerning hardship in the same manner.
The Historic District Commission may solicit expert testimony or require that the applicant for a certificate of hardship make submissions concerning any or all of the following information depending upon the circumstances of the hardship being claimed, before it makes a determination on the application:
Estimate of the cost of the proposed construction, alteration, demolition, or removal and an estimate of any additional cost that would be incurred to comply with the recommendations of the Historic District Commission for changes necessary for the issuance of a certificate of appropriateness;
A report from a licensed engineer or architect with experience in rehabilitation as to the structural soundness of any structures on the property and their suitability for rehabilitation;
Estimated market value of the property in its current condition; after completion of the proposed construction, alteration, demolition, or removal; after any changes recommended by the Historic District Commission; and, in the case of a proposed demolition, after renovation of the existing property for continued use;
In the case of a proposed demolition, an estimate from an architect, developer, real estate consultant, appraiser, or other real estate professional experienced in rehabilitation as to the economic feasibility of rehabilitation or reuse of the existing structure on the property;
All appraisals obtained within the previous two years by the owner or applicant in connection with the purchase, financing, or ownership of the property;
Assessed value of the property according to the two most recent assessments;
Form of ownership or operation of the property, whether sole proprietorship, for-profit or not-for-profit corporation, limited partnership, joint venture, or other;
Any other information considered necessary by the Historic District Commission to make a determination as to whether the property does yield or may yield a reasonable return to the owners.
Determination of hardship. The Commission shall review all the evidence and information required of an applicant for a certificate of hardship and make a determination within sixty (60) days of receipt of the application whether the denial of a certificate of appropriateness would deprive the owner of the property of reasonable use of, or economic return on, the property. Written notice of the determination shall be provided in the same manner as required above.
Certificate of non-applicability.
Upon request, the Commission may issue a certificate of non-applicability to any applicant whose proposed work does not require Commission approval.
In order for the Historic District Commission to issue a certificate of non-applicability, it must first find that the proposed work does not require the issuance of a certificate of applicability or a certificate of hardship and that the proposed work will not adversely affect the character or nature of the historic district in which it is proposed.
Standards for review. In considering an application for a building or demolition permit or for a certificate of appropriateness, the Historic District Commission shall be guided by the following general standards in addition to any design guidelines in the bylaw designating the historic district. All applications shall comply as much as possible to the guidelines set forth in the 1990 revised version of the Secretary of the Department of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation.
Every reasonable effort shall be made to provide a compatible use for a property that requires minimal alteration of the building, structure, or site and its environment, or to use a property for its originally intended purpose.
The distinguishing original qualities or character of a building, structure, or site and its environment shall not be destroyed. The removal or alteration of any historic material or distinctive architectural feature should be avoided when possible.
All buildings, structures, and sites shall be recognized as products of their own time. Alterations that have no historical basis and that seek to create an earlier or later appearance shall be discouraged.
Changes that may have taken place in the course of time are evidence of the history and development of a building, structure, or site and its environment. These changes may have acquired significance in their own right, and this significance shall be recognized and respected.
Distinctive stylistic features or examples of skilled craftsmanship that characterize a building, structure, or site shall be treated with sensitivity.
Deteriorated architectural features shall be repaired rather than replaced, wherever possible. In the event replacement is necessary, the new material should match the material being replaced in composition, design, color, texture, and other visual qualities. Repair or replacement of missing architectural features should be based on accurate duplication of features, substantiated by historic, physical, or pictorial evidence, rather than on conjectural designs or the availability of different architectural elements from other buildings or structures.
The surface cleaning of structures shall be undertaken with the gentlest means possible. Sandblasting and other cleaning methods that will damage the historic building materials shall not be undertaken.
Every reasonable effort shall be made to protect and preserve archaeological resources affected by, or adjacent to, any project.
Contemporary design for alterations and additions to existing properties shall not be discouraged when such alterations and additions do not destroy significant historical, architectural, or cultural material, and such design is compatible with the size, scale, color, material, and character of the property, neighborhood, or environment.
Design guidelines. In applying the standards for review for certificates of appropriateness, the Historic District Commission shall, at a minimum, consider the following architectural criteria:
Height. The height of any proposed alteration or construction should be compatible with the style and character of the building or structure and with surrounding structures in a historic district.
Proportions of windows and doors. The proportions and relationships between doors and windows should be compatible with the architectural style and character of the building or structure and with surrounding buildings or structures within a historic district.
Relationship of building masses and spaces. The building or structure within a historic district and the open space between it and adjoining structures should be compatible.
[Amended 10-2-2000 ATM by Art. 9, approved 3-29-2001]
Roof shape. The design of the roof should be compatible with the architectural style and character of the building and surrounding buildings in a historic district.
Landscaping. Landscaping should be compatible with the architectural character and appearance of the property and of surrounding buildings, structures and landscapes in historic districts.
Scale. The scale of the building or structure after alteration, construction, or partial demolition should be compatible with its architectural style and character and with surrounding buildings or structures in a historic district.
Directional expression. Facades in historic districts should blend with other buildings with regard to directional expression. Buildings in a historic district should be compatible with the dominant horizontal or vertical expression of surrounding structures. The directional expression of a building after alteration, construction, or partial demolition should be compatible with its original architectural style and character.
Architectural details. Architectural details including materials, colors, and textures should be treated so as to make a building compatible with its original architectural style and character and to preserve and enhance the architectural style or character of a building or historic district.
Appeals. Any party aggrieved by a determination of the Historic District Commission may, within twenty (20) days after the filing of the notice of such determination with the North Reading Town Clerk, appeal to the Superior Court sitting in equity pursuant to MGL c. 40C, § 12A.
Certificate of appropriateness. A certificate of appropriateness shall be required before the following actions affecting the exterior architectural feature of any building or structure within an historic district may be undertaken:
Any construction, alteration, or removal requiring a building permit from the Town of North Reading;
Any demolition in whole or in part requiring a permit from the Town of North Reading;
Any construction, alteration, demolition, or removal affecting any significant exterior architectural feature as specified in this bylaw.
Applications for permits. Every application for a demolition permit or a building permit, including the accompanying plans and specifications, affecting the exterior architectural appearance of a property within a designated historic district shall be forwarded by the Building Department to the Historic District Commission within seven (7) days following receipt of the application by the Building Department. The Building Department shall not issue the building or demolition permit until and unless a certificate of appropriateness has been issued by the Historic District Commission. Any applicant may request a meeting with the Historic District Commission before the application is sent by the Building Department to the Historic District Commission or during the review of the application.
Designation of historic districts. Designations shall be made to the Historic District Commission on a form prepared by it and may be submitted by a member of the Historic District Commission, Historical Commission, owners of record of the designated properties, or any other person or organization.
Criteria for consideration of designation. The Historic District Commission shall, upon such investigation as it deems necessary, make a determination as to whether a designated area meets one or more of the following criteria:
Its character, interest, or value as part of the development, heritage, or cultural characteristics of the community, county, state, or country;
Its location as a site of a significant local, county, state, or national event;
Its identification with a person or persons who significantly contributed to the development of the community, county, state, or country;
Its embodiment of distinguishing characteristics of an architectural style valuable for the study of a period, type, method of construction, or use of indigenous materials;
Its identification as an area of the work of a master builder, designer, architect, or landscape architect whose individual work has influenced the development of the community, county, state or country;
Its embodiment of elements of design, detailing, materials, or craftsmanship that render it architecturally significant;
Its embodiment of design elements that make it structurally or architecturally innovative;
Its unique location or singular physical characteristics that make it an established or familiar visual feature;
Its character as a particularly fine or unique example of a utilitarian structure, including, but not limited to farmhouses, gas stations, or other commercial structures, with a high level of integrity or architectural significance; and/or
Its suitability for preservation or restoration.
Any area that meets one or more of the above criteria shall also have sufficient integrity of location, design, materials, and workmanship to make it worthy of preservation or restoration.
Notification of designation. The Historic District Commission shall transmit copies of reports to the North Reading Community Planning Commission, North Reading Historical Commission, and to the Massachusetts Historical Commission for recommendations within 60 days of the Historic District Commission's decision to establish an historic district.
A public hearing shall be held by the Historic District Commission on the report not less than sixty (60) days after the transmittal of the report to the Community Planning Commission, North Reading Historical Commission and Massachusetts Historical Commission.
Due notice of public hearing shall be given at least fourteen (14) days prior to the scheduled date of the public hearing to all owners of property within the proposed historic district as they appear on the most recent Tax Assessor's list.
Oral or written testimony concerning the significance of the designated historic district shall be taken at a public hearing from any party concerning the nomination. The Historic District Commission may present expert testimony or present its own evidence regarding the compliance of the designated historic district with the criteria for consideration of a nomination. The owner of any property within a nominated historic district shall be allowed reasonable opportunity to present evidence regarding significance and shall be afforded the right of representation by counsel and reasonable opportunity to cross-examine expert witnesses. The hearing shall be closed upon completion of testimony.
Adoption. The Historic District Commission shall submit a final report, complete with recommendations and a map showing the proposed location of an historic district to the North Reading Town Meeting. A two-thirds majority vote of the Town Meeting shall be required in order to establish an historic district.
Interim control. No building permit shall be issued by the Building Department for alteration, construction, demolition, or removal of a designated historic district or of any property or structure within a designated historic district from the date of the meeting of the Historic District Commission at which a designation form is first presented until the final disposition of the designation by Town Meeting. In no event shall the delay be for more than one hundred eighty (180) days.
If any section, subsection, sentence, clause, phrase or section of this Historic District Bylaw is for any reason held invalid, illegal or unconstitutional by any court of competent jurisdiction, such portion shall be deemed a separate, distinct and independent provision, and such holding shall not affect the validity of any remaining portions hereof.
Following Town Meeting approval, this bylaw shall take effect immediately when the following conditions have been met:
Violations. The provisions of this bylaw may be enforced by noncriminal disposition pursuant to the provisions of Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 40, Section 21D. The Building Inspector shall be the enforcing official. Upon taking cognizance of a violation of a specific Historic District Bylaw, as an alternative to initiating criminal proceedings, he may give to the offender a written citation of violation.
Penalties. Each day, or portion of a day, that any violation is allowed to continue shall constitute a separate offense. The penalty for violation of any provision of this bylaw shall be as follows: $300.00 per day per violation.