Town of Watertown, MA
Middlesex County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[Ord. 2, Sec. 1, passed 1-12-2010]
This chapter is enacted under § 6 of the Home Rule Amendment of the Massachusetts Constitution, in order to preserve the heritage of the city known as the Town of Watertown (hereinafter "town") by identifying and protecting sites and structures that constitute or reflect important elements of the architectural, cultural, aesthetic, political, economic or social history of the town; to encourage and assist property owners to protect and maintain such sites and structures; to foster public awareness and appreciation of the town's long and distinguished history; and by furthering these purposes to promote the public welfare by making the town a better place in which to live and work.
[Ord. 2, Sec. 2, passed 1-12-2010]
(A) 
To be recommended for designation as a Watertown historic landmark ("landmark"), a property must constitute or contain a place or structure that is either:
(1) 
Importantly associated with one or more historic persons or events, or with the broad architectural, cultural, aesthetic, political, economic or social history of the town or commonwealth; or
(2) 
Historically or architecturally significant in terms of period, style, methods of construction, or association with a famous architect or builder.
(B) 
For purposes of this chapter, a STRUCTURE is defined as a combination of materials, including but not limited to, a building, wall, bridge, statue or monument.
(C) 
To initiate designation of a landmark, a petition shall be submitted to the Watertown Historical Commission ("Historical Commission") by the property owner. If the property owner withdraws the petition at any time prior to the Town Council's vote under § 156.03(A), the designation process shall not continue.
(D) 
Within 120 days after receiving such a petition, the Historical Commission shall hold a public hearing on the proposed designation.
(1) 
The Historical Commission shall not reconsider a proposed designation that was rejected within the previous year, unless two-thirds of all its members vote to do so, based on new, significant information.
(2) 
The Commission shall give public notice of the hearing at least 14 days before the hearing date, by publishing the time, place and purpose of the hearing in a local newspaper, and by mailing a copy of the notice to the owner of record of the proposed landmark, and to the abutting owners at the addresses listed on the most recent local tax list, and to such other persons as the Historical Commission shall deem entitled to notice.
(E) 
Prior to the public hearing, the Historical Commission shall investigate and prepare a report on the proposed landmark's historical, architectural and other relevant significance, in addition to any information provided by the petitioner. If the report recommends designation, the report shall recommend the proposed boundaries of the landmark for incorporation into the order of the Town Council designating the landmark.
(F) 
At least 14 days prior to the public hearing, the Commission shall also transmit copies of the report to the Planning Board and the Zoning Enforcement Officer for their comments, which shall be advisory only.
(G) 
Following the close of the public hearing, the Historical Commission may, by majority vote, recommend designation of the proposed landmark.
(H) 
In deciding whether to recommend designation of a landmark, in addition to the standards in § 156.02(A), the Historical Commission shall consider:
(1) 
Whether the historically or architecturally significant characteristics or associations of the proposed landmark are, for the most part, original and capable of preservation or restoration; and
(2) 
Whether the location and current or expected use of the proposed landmark are compatible with its preservation.
(I) 
If the Historical Commission votes to recommend the proposed landmark, its recommendation shall be transmitted to the Town Council, with a copy of the report and a statement of the reasons for designation pursuant to the standards in § 156.02(A) and (H), and § 156.03(B).
[Ord. 2, Sec. 3, passed 1-12-2010]
(A) 
Designation of a landmark shall be by order of the Town Council.
(B) 
Unless specifically provided in the order designating a landmark, based on a finding of its historic or architectural significance, the authority of the Historical Commission under this chapter shall not extend to the following categories of features of the landmark, in which event alteration, construction or demolition of the features so excluded may be carried out without the need to apply to the Historical Commission for a certificate:
(1) 
Garages, sheds, walls, fences and other accessory structures;
(2) 
Storm doors and windows, screens, shutters, trelliswork, lighting fixtures, signs, antennae and air conditioners;
(3) 
Terraces, walkways and driveways;
(4) 
Temporary structures, lawn statuary, and recreational equipment, subject to such conditions as to duration of use, dimension, location, and similar matters as the Commission may reasonably specify;
(5) 
Exterior wall materials that do not involve alteration of any cornice, fascia, soffit, bay, porch, hood, window, door casing or other protruding decorative element;
(6) 
Exterior paint color;
(7) 
Roofing materials and color.
(C) 
Amendments to the terms, or rescission, of a previously designated landmark shall follow the same procedures governing designation. In addition, the Historical Commission may, on its own, initiate rescission of a previously designated landmark, or amendment of the terms of a prior designation that reduces the scope of its reviewing authority.
(D) 
No designation or amendment of a landmark shall be effective until a map setting forth the boundaries of the landmark has been recorded with the Registry of Deeds for the South District of Middlesex County, or, in the case of a rescission, a copy of the rescission order has been recorded.
(E) 
Starting from the date the Historical Commission receives a valid petition to designate a landmark, and continuing until the earliest of: (1) the property owner withdraws the petition; (2) the Historical Commission votes against recommending designation; (3) the Town Council votes against the proposed designation; or (4) one year has elapsed, no application for a permit for alteration, construction or demolition of the proposed landmark shall be granted until reviewed by the Commission as though the property were designated a landmark.
(F) 
If any landmark is within the bounds of a municipal historic district, proposed alterations shall not be reviewed under this chapter but under the relevant historic district ordinance. The property shall nonetheless be a Watertown landmark, but shall not be subject to review by the Historical Commission.
[Ord. 2, Sec. 4, passed 1-12-2010]
(A) 
Except as this chapter or the order designating a landmark may otherwise provide, no structure or exterior architectural feature of a landmark shall be altered or demolished, nor any permit be issued for construction, alteration or demolition on a property designated as a landmark, unless the Historical Commission shall first have issued a certificate of appropriateness or certificate of hardship. For purposes of this chapter, EXTERIOR ARCHITECTURAL FEATURE is defined as such portion of the exterior of a structure as is open to view from a public street, way, park or body of water.
(B) 
Any person wishing to obtain a certificate from the Historical Commission shall file an application for a certificate of appropriateness or a certificate of hardship, as the case may be, in such form as the Historical Commission may reasonably determine, together with such plans, elevations, specifications, material and other information as may be reasonably deemed necessary by the Historical Commission to enable it to make a determination on the application.
(C) 
Within 45 days after the Historical Commission deems that an application is complete, the Historical Commission shall hold a public hearing. The Historical Commission shall give public notice of the hearing at least 14 days before the hearing date, by publishing the time, place and purpose of the hearing in a local newspaper, and mailing a copy of the notice to the applicant, to the owners of all property deemed by the Historical Commission to be affected thereby, as they appear on the most recent local tax list, and to such other persons deemed entitled to notice.
(D) 
In reviewing an application for a certificate, the Historical Commission shall not make any recommendations or requirements except for the purpose of preserving the historically or architecturally significant characteristics of a landmark. Factors the Historical Commission shall consider include:
(1) 
The historical and architectural significance of the landmark in general, and of the particular structure or exterior architectural feature involved in the application;
(2) 
The general design, arrangement, texture, material and color of the structure or exterior architectural feature involved;
(3) 
The relation of such structure or exterior architectural feature to properties in the surrounding area;
(4) 
Whether preservation or restoration is structurally, technologically and economically feasible;
(5) 
In the case of new construction, the appropriateness of the size, shape and location of the new structure or exterior architectural feature, in relation both to the existing structures and features of the landmark, and to properties in the surrounding area.
[Ord. 2, Sec. 5, passed 1-12-2010]
(A) 
In issuing certificates, the Historical Commission may, in appropriate cases, impose dimensional and setback requirements in addition to those required by applicable provisions of the zoning ordinance.
(B) 
The Historical Commission shall issue a certificate of appropriateness to the applicant if:
(1) 
It determines that the alteration, construction or demolition for which an application has been filed will be appropriate for, or compatible with, the preservation or protection of the landmark; or
(2) 
The applicant agrees to modify the application to address any concerns of the Commission, including recommendations as to appropriateness of design, arrangement, texture, material and similar characteristics that would make the application acceptable to the Commission, and, within 14 days of the Commission action, the applicant files a written modification of the application in conformity with the changes.
(C) 
If a certificate of hardship has been applied for, or if a certificate of appropriateness has been applied for and the Historical Commission determines not to issue it, the Historical Commission shall issue a certificate of hardship to the applicant if all of the following are satisfied:
(1) 
Owing to conditions especially affecting the structure or exterior architectural features involved, but not affecting the landmark's general historic qualities, failure to approve an application will involve a substantial hardship, financial or otherwise, to the applicant;
(2) 
The hardship is not due to the owner's avoidable failure to maintain the landmark or other circumstances within the owner's control;
(3) 
Such application may be approved without substantial derogation from the intent and purpose of this chapter; and
(4) 
The application may be approved without substantial detriment to the public welfare.
(D) 
In making its determination on an application for a certificate, the Historical Commission shall provide a written statement of its reasons, referencing the factors in § 156.04(D) and the standards in § 156.055(B) or (C), as the case may be.
(E) 
If the Historical Commission fails to make a determination on an application within 45 days after the public hearing specified in § 156.04(C), it will be deemed to have issued a certificate of appropriateness.
[Ord. 2, Sec. 6, passed 1-12-2010]
(A) 
Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prevent:
(1) 
The ordinary maintenance, repair or replacement of any structure or exterior architectural feature of a landmark that does not involve a change in its exterior design, material or outward appearance;
(2) 
The meeting of requirements certified by a duly authorized public officer to be necessary for public safety because of an unsafe or dangerous condition;
(3) 
The reconstruction, substantially similar in exterior design and materials, of a structure or exterior architectural feature damaged or destroyed by fire, storm or other disaster, provided such reconstruction is begun within one year thereafter and carried forward with due diligence.
[Ord. 2, Sec. 7, passed 1-12-2010]
(A) 
The Historical Commission shall promote public awareness and appreciation of landmarks by maintaining a publicly available list of landmarks, producing and distributing materials explaining their significance, and, with the agreement of the property owner, providing identifying signs and explanatory materials.
(B) 
The Historical Commission shall assist owners of landmarks by providing preservation guides and other information regarding maintenance, restoration and rehabilitation.
(C) 
The Historical Commission shall assist owners of landmarks by providing information about obtaining available tax benefits, grants and listing on the National Register of Historic Places and similar registers.
[Ord. 2, Sec. 8, passed 1-12-2010]
(A) 
Any alteration, construction or demolition on a property designated a landmark, without first obtaining and complying fully with the provisions of this chapter, will be subject to a fine of $300 for each day that the violation continues, in addition to any fine that may be imposed for failure to comply with the State Building Code.
(B) 
In addition to the foregoing, no building permit shall be issued with respect to any property designated a landmark, on which structures or exterior architectural features have been voluntarily altered, constructed or demolished other than pursuant to a certificate granted under the provisions of this chapter, for a period of two years after the date of such alteration, construction or demolition.