Town of Falmouth, MA
Barnstable County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[Adopted by the Town of Falmouth Annual Fall Town Meeting 11-12-2015, Art. 18, approved 2-29-2016. Amendments noted where applicable.]

§ 36-1 Authority and purpose.

A. 
This bylaw shall be known and may be cited as the Falmouth Historic District Bylaw and is adopted pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 40C of the Massachusetts General Laws, as amended.
B. 
The purpose of this bylaw is to promote the educational, cultural, economic and general welfare of the public through the preservation and protection of the distinctive characteristics and architecture of buildings and places significant in the history of the Town of Falmouth or their architecture, and through the maintenance and improvement of settings for such buildings and places to ensure that new building designs are compatible therewith.

§ 36-2 Definitions.

ALTERATION, TO ALTER
The act or the fact of rebuilding, reconstruction, restoration, replication, removal, demolition, and other similar activities.
BUILDING
A combination of materials forming shelter for people, animals or property.
CERTIFICATE
A certificate of appropriateness, a certificate of nonapplicability, or a certificate of hardship as set forth in this bylaw.
COMMISSION
The Falmouth Historical Commission as established in accordance with Chapter 40C of the Massachusetts General Laws and shall have all the powers and duties of the historical commission as provided in MGL c. 40, § 8D.
CONSTRUCTION, TO CONSTRUCT
The act or the fact of building, erecting, installing, enlarging, moving and other similar activities.
DISTRICT
One of the seven (7) historic districts established pursuant to Chapter 654 of the Acts of 1975, and any additional historic district as may be established pursuant to Chapter 40C of the Massachusetts General Laws.
EXTERIOR ARCHITECTURAL FEATURE
Any portion of the exterior of a building or structure that is open to view from a public street, public way, public park or public body of water, including but not limited to architectural style and general arrangement and setting thereof, the kind and texture of exterior building materials, the materials applied to exterior surfaces, and the type and style of windows, doors, lights, signs and other appurtenant exterior fixtures.
HARDSHIP
Application of this bylaw to a particular piece of property, evaluated in its totality, owing to the unique characteristics of the property, that is unduly oppressive, arbitrary or confiscatory and would involve substantial economic loss to the applicant because a literal enforcement of the bylaw, provided the conditions and characteristics of the property are not the result of actions of the applicant, or owner, or their agents, predecessors, successors or assigns.
PERSON AGGRIEVED
The applicant; an owner of adjoining property; an owner of property within the same district area within one hundred (100) feet of the subject property lines; and any nonprofit organization in which one of its purposes is the preservation of historic places, structures, buildings or districts.
SIGNS
Any symbol, design or device used to identify or advertise any place of business, product, activity or person.
STRUCTURE
A combination of materials other than a building, including but not limited to a sign, fence, wall, terrace, walk or driveway.
TEMPORARY BUILDING
A building not to be in existence for a period of more than two (2) years.
TEMPORARY SIGN
A sign not to be in existence for a period of more than thirty (30) days.
TEMPORARY STRUCTURE
A structure not to be in existence for a period of more than one (1) year.

§ 36-3 District.

The historic districts shall consist of the areas listed in § 36-14 (Appendices) of this bylaw.

§ 36-4 Commission.

A. 
The districts shall be regulated by a Commission consisting of five (5) members to be appointed by the Board of Selectmen. One (1) member shall initially be appointed for one (1) year, two (2) for two (2) years, and two (2) for three (3) years. Each successive appointment shall be for three (3) years.
B. 
The Commission shall include, if possible, one (1) member from two (2) nominees solicited from the Falmouth Historical Society, one (1) member from two (2) nominees solicited from the chapter of the American Institute of Architects covering Falmouth; one (1) member from two (2) nominees of the Board of Realtors covering Falmouth; and one (1) property owner from within a district area. If within thirty (30) days after submission of a written request for nominees to any of the organizations herein named, insufficient nominations have been received, the Board of Selectmen may proceed to make open appointments.
C. 
The Board of Selectmen shall appoint up to two (2) alternate members to the Commission. Each alternate member shall have the right to act and vote in the place of a regular member should such regular member be absent from a meeting, or unable to vote. Said alternate members shall initially be appointed for terms of two (2) or three (3) years, and for three-year (3-year) terms thereafter.
D. 
Meetings of the Commission shall be held at the call of the Chairman and in such other manner as the Commission shall determine in its rules and regulations.
E. 
Three (3) members of the Commission shall constitute a quorum.

§ 36-5 Commission powers and duties.

A. 
The Commission shall exercise its powers in administering and regulating the construction and alteration of any structure or building within the district as set forth under the procedures and criteria established in this bylaw. In exercising its powers and duties hereunder, the Commission shall pay due regard to the distinctive characteristics of each building, structure and district area.
B. 
The Commission shall adhere to the rules and regulations previously adopted pursuant to Chapter 654 of the Acts of 1975, unless the Commission adopts, or from time to time amends, reasonable rules and regulations not inconsistent with the provisions of this bylaw, MGL c. 40C, or 40, § 8D, setting forth such forms and procedures as it deems desirable and necessary for the regulation of its affairs and the conduct of its business, including requirements for the contents and form of applications for certificates, fees, hearing procedures and other matters. The Commission shall file a copy of any such rules and regulations with the office of the Town Clerk.
C. 
The Commission shall adhere to the guidelines previously adopted pursuant to Chapter 654 of the Acts of 1975, unless the Commission, after a public hearing duly posted and advertised at least fourteen (14) days in advance in a conspicuous place in Town Hall and in a newspaper of general circulation, adopts or from time to time amends the guidelines which set forth the designs for certain exterior architectural features which are, in general, suitable for the issuance of a certificate. No such design guidelines shall limit the right of an applicant for a certificate to present other designs to the Commission for approval.
D. 
The Commission shall, at the beginning of each fiscal year, hold an organizational meeting and elect a Chairman, Vice Chairman and Secretary, and file notice of such election with the office of the Town Clerk.
E. 
The Commission shall keep a permanent record of its resolutions, transactions, decisions and determinations and of the vote of each member participating therein.

§ 36-6 Alterations and constructions prohibited without a certificate.

A. 
Except as provided in this bylaw, no building or structure or part thereof within a district shall be constructed or altered in any way that affects the exterior architectural features visible from a public street, public way, public park or public body of water, without a certificate issued by the Commission.
B. 
No building permit for construction of a building or structure or for alteration of an exterior architectural feature within a district and no demolition permit for removal of a building or structure within a district shall be issued by the Town or any department until a certificate is issued by the Commission.

§ 36-7 Procedures for review of applications.

A. 
Any person who desires to receive a certificate shall file with the Commission an application for a certificate of appropriateness, of nonapplicability, or of hardship. The application shall be accompanied by such plans, elevations, specifications, material and other information, including in the case of demolition a statement of the proposed condition and appearance of the property after removal of any buildings or structures, as may be reasonably deemed necessary by the Commission.
B. 
The Commission shall determine within fourteen (14) days of the filing of an application for a certificate whether the application involves any exterior architectural features which are within the jurisdiction of the Commission.
C. 
If the Commission determines that an application for a certificate does not involve any exterior architectural features, or involves an exterior architectural feature which is not subject to review by the Commission under the provisions of this bylaw, the Commission shall forthwith issue a certificate of nonapplicability.
D. 
Public hearing; notice.
(1) 
If the Commission determines that such application involves any exterior architectural feature subject to review under this bylaw, it shall hold a public hearing on the application. The Commission shall hold such a public hearing within forty-five (45) days from the receipt of the application. At least fourteen (14) days before the public hearing, notice shall be given by posting in a conspicuous place in Town Hall and in a newspaper of general circulation. Such notice shall identify the time, place, and purpose of the public hearing.
(2) 
Concurrently, a copy of the public hearing notice shall be mailed to the applicant, to the owners of all adjoining properties, to the owners of all property within the same district area within one hundred (100) feet of the subject property lines, to any nonprofit organization in which one of its purposes is the preservation of historic places, structures, buildings or districts, to all other properties deemed by the Commission to be materially affected, all as they appear on the most recent applicable tax list, to the Planning Board, and to any person filing a written request for notice of hearings (such request to be renewed yearly in December).
E. 
Within sixty (60) days after the filing of an application for a certificate, or within such further time as the applicant may allow in writing, the Commission shall issue a certificate or disapproval. In the case of a disapproval, the Commission shall place upon its record the reasons for disapproval and shall set forth the reasons in its written disapproval.
F. 
The concurring vote of a majority of the members shall be required to approve a certificate.
G. 
In issuing certificates, the Commission may, as it deems appropriate, impose certain conditions and limitations, and may require architectural or plan modifications consistent with the intent and purpose of this bylaw.
H. 
In the event of an application for a certificate of hardship, the Commission shall determine whether, owing to conditions especially affecting the building or structure involved, but not affecting the 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 bylaw. If the Commission determines that owing to such conditions failure to approve an application will involve substantial hardship to the applicant and approval thereof may be made without such substantial detriment or derogation, the Commission shall issue a certificate of hardship. The issuance of a certificate of hardship pursuant to the foregoing provision is intended to be employed only in rare and unusual cases.
I. 
The Commission shall send a copy of its certificates and disapprovals to the applicant and shall file a copy with the Town Clerk and Building Commissioner. The date of issuance of a certificate or disapproval shall be the date of the filing with the Town Clerk.
J. 
If the Commission should fail to issue a certificate or disapproval within sixty (60) days of the filing of the application, or within such further time as the applicant may allow in writing, the Commission shall approve the application due to a failure to act.
K. 
Each certificate issued by the Commission shall be dated and signed by its Chairman or such other person designated by the Commission to sign on its behalf.
L. 
A person aggrieved by a determination of the Commission may, within twenty (20) days of the issuance of a certificate or disapproval, file an appeal in the Barnstable County Superior Court as provided in MGL c. 40C, § 12A. The remedy provided by this section shall be exclusive but the parties shall have all rights of appeal and exception as in other equity cases.

§ 36-8 Criteria for determinations.

A. 
In deliberating on applications for certificates, the Commission shall consider, among other things, the historic and architectural value and significance of the site, building or structure; the general design, proportions, detailing, mass, arrangement, texture, and material of the exterior architectural features involved; and the relation of such exterior architectural features to similar features of buildings and structures in the surrounding district.
B. 
In the case of new construction or additions to existing buildings or structures, the Commission shall consider the appropriateness of the scale, shape and proportions of the building or structure both in relation to the land area upon which the building or structure is situated and in relation to buildings and structures in the district.
C. 
When ruling on applications for certificates on solar energy systems as defined in MGL c. 40A, § 1A, the Commission shall consider the policy of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to encourage the use of solar energy systems and to protect solar access.
D. 
The Commission shall not consider interior arrangements or exterior architectural features not subject to public view from a public way.

§ 36-9 Exclusions.

A. 
The Commission shall exclude from its purview the following:
[Amended AFTM 11-14-2016, Art. 6, approved 2-17-2017]
(1) 
Temporary buildings, structures or signs; subject, however, to conditions pertaining to the duration of existence and use and similar matters as the Commission may reasonably specify.
(2) 
(Reserved)
(3) 
Storm windows and doors, screen windows and doors, and window air conditioners.
B. 
Nothing in this bylaw shall be construed to prevent the ordinary maintenance, repair or replacement of any exterior architectural feature within a district which does not involve a change in design, material or the outward appearance thereof, nor to prevent landscaping with plants, trees or shrubs, nor construed to prevent the meeting of requirements certified by a duly authorized public officer to be necessary for public safety because of an unsafe or dangerous condition, nor construed to prevent any construction or alteration under a permit duly issued prior to the effective date of this bylaw.

§ 36-10 Categorical approval.

The Commission may determine from time to time after a public hearing, duly advertised and posted at least fourteen (14) days in advance in a conspicuous place in Town Hall and in a newspaper of general circulation in Falmouth, that certain categories of exterior architectural features, structures or buildings under certain conditions may be constructed or altered without review by the Commission without causing substantial derogation from the intent and purpose of this bylaw.

§ 36-11 Enforcement and penalties.

A. 
The Superior Court shall have jurisdiction to enforce the provisions of this bylaw and the determinations, rulings and regulations pursuant thereto and may upon the request of the Board of Selectmen or Commission, restrain by injunction violations thereof; and without limitation, such court may order the removal of any building, structure or exterior architectural feature constructed in violation thereof, or the substantial restoration of any building, structure or exterior architectural feature altered or demolished in violation thereof, and may issue such other relief as may be equitable.
B. 
Notwithstanding the provisions of the State Building Code, the Building Commissioner shall withhold any permit for construction, alteration, demolition or the moving, use or occupancy of any building or structure until such time as the Commission issues a determination that compliance with its certificate of appropriateness has been accomplished or that the Commission has received surety for the completion of construction or other authorized site activities pursuant to the following:
(1) 
Before issuing a certificate of appropriateness, the Commission may require that construction or other authorized site activities be secured by one of the following methods, which method may be selected and from time to time varied by the applicant upon receiving written approval from the Commission:
(a) 
By a proper bond or deposit of money sufficient in the opinion of the Commission to secure performance of the conditions of its decision as noted in the certificate of appropriateness or accompanying plans; or
(b) 
By a covenant executed and duly recorded by the owner of record, running with the land, whereby the conditions of its decision as noted in the certificate of appropriateness or accompanying plans shall be accomplished prior to the issuance of occupancy permits or any conveyance, sale, rental or similar disposition of the property.
C. 
Any person violating any of the provisions of this act shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, fined not more than three hundred dollars ($300) for each offense. Each day that such violation continues shall constitute a separate offense.

§ 36-12 Powers and duties of commissions established hereunder as historical commissions.

The Commission established hereunder shall have the powers and duties of a historical commission as provided in MGL c. 40, § 8D, and may be entitled a historical commission in addition to a historic district commission.

§ 36-13 Validity and separability.

The provisions of this bylaw shall be deemed to be separable. If any of its provisions, sections, subsections, sentences or clauses shall be held to be invalid or unconstitutional by any court of competent jurisdiction, the remainder of the bylaw shall continue to be in full force and effect.

§ 36-14 Appendices. [1]

Appendix 1: North Falmouth Historic District
Appendix 2: West Falmouth Historic District
Appendix 3: Falmouth Village
Appendix 4: Woods Hole
Appendix 5: East Falmouth
Appendix 6: Waquoit
Appendix 7: Quissett
[1]
Editor's Note: The appendices listed in this section are on file in the Town offices.