City of Northampton, MA
Hampshire County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the City Council of the City of Northampton 6-2-1994 (Ch. 26 of the 1977 Code). Amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
General penalty — See Ch. 1, § 1-17.
Enforcement — See Ch. 40.
Central Business and West Street architecture — See Ch. 156.
Zoning — See Ch. 350.
The purpose of this chapter is to promote the educational, cultural, economic, and general welfare of the public through the preservation and protection of the distinctive characteristics of buildings and places significant in the history and architecture of the City of Northampton and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, through the maintenance and improvement of settings for such buildings and places, and through the encouragement of design compatible therewith.
An Elm Street Historic District (District) is established within the City of Northampton, in accordance with Chapter 40C of the Massachusetts General Laws. The Elm Street Historic District shall be bounded as shown on a map entitled "Elm Street Historic District, City of Northampton" attached and made part of this chapter.[1]
[1]
Editor's Note: The map is on file in the Clerk's office.
[1]
Former §§ 195-3, Historic District Commission, and 195-4, Powers and duties of Commission, as amended, were repealed 12-4-2014. See now the Administrative Code, included in the City Code following the Charter.
[Added 3-3-2011[1]]
All projects fall under one of the following three categories: exempt, potentially exempt, or nonexempt. The Commission is authorized to add additional projects as exempt or potentially exempt.
A. 
Exempt from Historic District review (Property owners may apply for a certificate of nonapplicability if they want a written record.):
(1) 
General exemptions.
(a) 
Interior work and use of premises are not subject to any review.
(b) 
Exterior architectural features not visible from a public way, provided that they would not be visible even in the absence of all freestanding walls and fences, signs, accessory structures, and landscaping.
(c) 
Meeting any requirements certified by a duly authorized public officer to be necessary for public safety because of an unsafe or dangerous condition.
(d) 
Projects within the City right-of-way, when undertaken by the City or its agents or designees, after consulting with the Commission (but no permit or approval is required).
(2) 
Access devices/ramps that are temporary and involving no permanent alteration to existing physical structures, and in existence for six months or less.
(3) 
Air conditioners: window only.
(4) 
Antennas: rooftop TV and satellite dishes with a diameter of 12 inches or less.
(5) 
Art: outdoor freestanding art that is not an advertisement and does not alter any exterior feature of a building.
(6) 
Chimneys: repointing with the same materials and matching mortar color to existing mortar.
(7) 
Cornices, columns, pediments and trim: repair and replacement with the same materials and design or appearance.
(8) 
Doors: replacement with no change in opening dimensions, design or material; storm doors.
(9) 
Driveways, resurfacing of existing layout only.
[Added 12-7-2017 by Ord. No. 17.383[2]]
[2]
Editor's Note: This ordinance also redesignated former Subsection A(9) through (18) as Subsection A(10) through (19), respectively.
(10) 
Fences, when not part of any other structure or functioning as retaining walls when such fences are allowed as-of-right by Chapter 350, Zoning.
(11) 
Foundations: minor repairs with the same materials and color.
(12) 
Gutters, downspouts and water cisterns: repair and replacement with the same general design (but not necessarily materials), provided that downspouts are at the corner of a building and are vertical (no diagonal or horizontal downspouts) and cisterns or water tanks do not extend more than three feet above grade.
(13) 
Landscaping, grading, terraces, walks, and sidewalks: planting, pruning, trimming or removal of trees, shrubs, flowers and other plants and grading, provided that no retaining walls are required nor any alteration to the siding on any building.
[Amended 12-7-2017 by Ord. No. 17.383]
(14) 
Lighting fixtures in conformance with City of Northampton zoning regulations.[3]
[3]
Editor's Note: See Ch. 350, Zoning.
(15) 
Mailboxes.
(16) 
Masonry and stucco: minor repairs when using the same materials, design and color.
(17) 
Paint color.
(18) 
Parking areas on the side or rear of the principal building.
(19) 
[4]Roofs: repairs when using the same materials and color; reroofing with the same materials and design or appearance.
[4]
Editor's Note: Former Subsection A(19), Shutters: removal only (but not installation of new shutters), was repealed 12-7-2017 by Ord. No. 17.383.
(20) 
Siding: repairs when using the same materials, color and dimensions.
[Amended 12-7-2017 by Ord. No. 17.383]
(21) 
Signs: temporary signs up to 90 days and residential signs when in conformance with the City of Northampton Zoning Ordinance.[5]
[5]
Editor's Note: See Ch. 350, Zoning.
(22) 
Steps, stairways and railings: repair and replacement with the same materials and design or appearance.
(23) 
Solar, rooftop-mounted panels only if consistent with design standards.
[Amended 12-7-2017 by Ord. No. 17.383]
(24) 
Temporary structures up to 90 days if in conformance with Northampton zoning[6] if such will not alter any exterior feature protected by this chapter.
[6]
Editor's Note: See Ch. 350, Zoning.
(25) 
Windows: screens and storm windows only.
B. 
Potentially exempt with a certificate of nonapplicability from the Director of Planning and Sustainability or his/her designee, based on the standards herein and in the Design Standards:
[Amended 12-7-2017 by Ord. No. 17.383]
(1) 
Access devices and ramps not facing a street and not altering the historic character of a structure.
(2) 
Air conditioners, compressors, and exterior equipment not in front of the principal building on a site and adequately screened.
(3) 
Cornices, columns, pediments and trim: repair and replacement with the same design or appearance but different materials.
(4) 
Doors: replacement or repair of non-street-facing doors with the same essential design features (but not necessarily the same materials).
(5) 
Foundations, masonry, stucco, and chimneys: restoration and major repairs with the same design and materials if such work is historically accurate.
(6) 
Gutters, downspouts, and water cisterns: new installations, provided that downspouts are at the corner of a building and are vertical (no diagonal or horizontal downspouts) and cisterns or water tanks are placed out of public view or do not extend more than three feet above grade and are properly screened.
(7) 
Signs: replacement of an existing sign with one of the same design and appearance and the same or smaller size in conformance with Northampton zoning.[7]
[7]
Editor's Note: See Ch. 350, Zoning.
(8) 
Solar tubes (but not skylights) and air vents: exterior vents and solar tubes not distracting from the historic integrity of the building.
(9) 
Railings: replacement with the same design but different materials.
(10) 
Roofs: reroofing with different materials and/or design, but a compatible design, but not changing to a metal roof.
(11) 
Windows: duplication or rehabilitation of existing windows, provided that the new windows are identical in size to the old windows, have the same style and details and are consistent with the Design Standards.
(12) 
Siding: replacement with the same materials and dimensions.
C. 
Nonexempt: All other projects not exempted above and all appeals of a denial of a certificate of nonapplicability require a certificate of appropriateness or a certificate of hardship from the Commission.
[1]
Editor's Note: This ordinance also repealed former § 195-6, Exemptions, as amended.
The following procedures shall apply to properties within the Historic District. All procedures shall be in accordance with Chapter 40C of the Massachusetts General Laws:
A. 
Prior to any construction, alteration, or demolition that in any way affects exterior architectural features, except those activities exempted in § 195-5, a landowner or applicant must apply for and receive a certificate of appropriateness, a certificate of nonapplicability or a certificate of hardship from the Historic District Commission.
B. 
To apply for a certificate, the applicant must complete and file the Commission's application form, with the appropriate number of copies and supplementary material. Said application must be filed with the City Clerk.
[Amended 2-19-2009]
C. 
A person may apply for a certificate of nonapplicability to determine if a project involves a regulated architectural feature. Within 14 days, the Commission or its duly authorized subcommittee or agent shall issue a certificate of nonapplicability if it finds that the project would not involve any exterior architectural feature or would only involve exterior architectural features that are exempt from review. A denial of a certificate of nonapplicability by a subcommittee or agent may be appealed to the full Commission within 14 days of its denial. In reviewing a denial, the Commission shall follow the same procedures as for any other request for a certificate of nonapplicability that is heard by the full Commission.
[Amended 2-6-1997; 2-19-2009]
D. 
A person may apply for a certificate of appropriateness to determine if a project will be appropriate for or compatible with the preservation of the Historic District.
(1) 
Within 14 days, the Commission shall issue a certificate of nonapplicability, as described above, or determine that a public hearing on the application is required.
(2) 
Within 30 days after the required public notice and public hearing, the Commission shall issue a certificate of appropriateness with suitable conditions, if any, or disapprove the application. The public hearing may be waived in accordance with Chapter 40C.
(3) 
If the application is going to be disapproved, the Commission must first notify the applicant of the reasons for such disapproval and recommend changes in the applicant's proposal which, if made, would make the application acceptable to the Commission. If within 14 days the applicant files a written modification of the project in conformity with the recommended changes, the Commission shall issue a certificate of appropriateness.
(4) 
If the Commission finds that a project is inappropriate (certificate is disapproved), it shall consider whether a certificate of hardship should be issued.
E. 
A person may apply for a certificate of hardship to determine whether there is a unique hardship. The Commission shall issue a certificate of hardship when it finds that, owing to conditions especially affecting the building or structures involved, but not affecting the historic district generally, failure to approve an application will involve a substantial hardship, financial or otherwise, to the applicant and whether such application may be approved without substantial detriment to the public welfare and without substantial derogation from the intent and purposes of this chapter.
F. 
A landowner in the district or his or her representative may request informal assistance from the Commission in planning alterations or new construction. The Commission shall offer informal advice and comments to any proposal. This advice, however, cannot be binding on the Commission when it formally reviews an application for a certificate.
[Amended 2-19-2009]
This chapter may be enforced by criminal and noncriminal penalties and injunctive relief, in accordance with Chapter 40C of the Massachusetts General Laws and Chapter 40 of the Northampton Code of Ordinances.
A. 
Each day a condition is in violation of the provisions of this chapter shall constitute a separate violation, at the rate set forth in Chapter 40, Enforcement.
B. 
As an alternative to criminal prosecution or civil action, the City of Northampton may elect to utilize the noncriminal disposition procedure set forth in § 40-5.
[Added 2-6-1997]
A. 
Any person aggrieved by a determination of the Commission may, within 20 days after the filing of the notice of such determination with the City Clerk, file a written request with the Commission for a de novo review by a person or persons of competence and experience in such matters, designated by the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission.
B. 
The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission's designee's(s') finding shall be filed with the City Clerk within 45 days after the request and shall be binding on the applicant and the Commission, unless a further appeal is sought in Superior Court, as provided in MGL c. 40C.
Any portion of this chapter may be amended by a two-thirds vote of the City Council, in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 40C of the Massachusetts General Laws.
This chapter shall take effect upon appointment of the initial members of the Historic District Commission and filing of the map of the boundaries of the Historic District with the Northampton City Clerk and the Hampshire County Registry of Deeds.