Town of Belchertown, MA
Hampshire County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Annual Town Meeting of the Town of Belchertown 5-14-1990 by Art. 14. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Zoning — See Ch. 145.
Attachment 1 - Belchertown Center Historic District Map

§ 51-1 Title; authority.

This chapter shall be known and may be cited as the "Belchertown Historic District Bylaw" and adopted pursuant to MGL c. 40C, as amended.

§ 51-2 Purpose.

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 of the Town of Belchertown and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts or their architecture and through the maintenance and improvement of settings for such buildings and places and the encouragement of design compatible therewith.

§ 51-3 Establishment; boundaries.

There is hereby established under MGL c. 40C an historic district to be known as the "Belchertown Center Historic District," which district shall be bounded as shown on the map entitled "Belchertown Center Historic District, 1989" attached and made part of this chapter. The district boundaries are the same as those established by the Belchertown National Register Historic District in 1982.

§ 51-4 Historic District Commission established.

[Amended 5-9-2016 ATM by Art. 15]
There is hereby established under MGL c. 40C an Historic District Commission, which Commission may also be referred to as the "Historic District Bylaw Commission," consisting of seven members appointed by the Board of Selectmen, including, when possible, one member selected from two nominees submitted by the Belchertown Historic Association; one member selected from two nominees submitted by the local Board of Realtors; one member who is a registered architect in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, selected from two nominees submitted by the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects; one member who is a resident and property owner in the district; and three members who are residents of the Town at large. Nominations shall be solicited and received pursuant to MGL c. 40C, § 4.
[Amended 5-9-2016 ATM by Art. 16]
Members of the Historic District Commission shall be appointed for terms of three years so arranged that the term of at least one member, including but not limited to one of the members appointed from the residents of the Town at large, expires each year. Vacancies shall be filled within 60 days by the Board of Selectmen by appointment for the unexpired term. All members shall serve without compensation. The Commission shall elect annually a Chairman and Vice Chairman from its own number and shall appoint a Secretary from within or without its own number. Four members of the Commission shall constitute a quorum.

§ 51-5 Powers and duties of Commission.

The Historic District Commission shall have all powers and duties of Historic District Commissions as provided by the Historic District Act, MGL c. 40C, and subsequent amendments thereto, unless specifically limited by this chapter.
Rules and regulations. The Commission may adopt rules and regulations not inconsistent with the provisions of the Historic District Act.
Staffing and assistance. The Commission may, subject to appropriation or receipt of monetary gifts, employ clerical and technical assistants or consultants and may incur other expenses appropriate to the carrying out of its work.
General regulatory powers. The Commission shall have regulatory control over new construction, reconstructions, alterations, movements and demolition of all exterior architectural features of buildings and structures within the Historic District which are visible from any public street, public way or public park within the Historic District, except as limited by this chapter. The term "structure" includes stone walls, fences, driveways, walks, terraces, steps, pavings, signs, lights and appurtenant fixtures on lots, buildings or structures. For purposes of this chapter, any structure partially within the Historic District shall be considered within the district.
In passing 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.
In passing upon applications for a certificate of appropriateness, the local Historic District Commission shall refer to historical scholarship based on original sources, historic photographs or other visual documentation and the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation in order to evaluate the proposed changes.
Exceptions. The Commission may determine from time to time, after public hearing, that certain categories of exterior architectural features, structures or signs may be constructed or altered without review by the Commission. The Commission may, after public hearing, set forth the various designs of certain appurtenances, such as lighting fixtures, which will meet the requirements of the Historic District, but no such determination shall limit the right of an applicant to present other designs to the Commission for its approval.

§ 51-6 Limits and exemptions.

The Historic District Commission shall not make any recommendations or requirement with regard to new construction, reconstructions 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.
The following elements shall be exempt from review by the Historic District Commission, as provided under MGL c. 40C, § 8.
Storm doors and windows, screens, window air conditioners or any one or more of them.
The color of paint. 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 chapter.
Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prevent the ordinary maintenance, repair or replacement of any exterior architectural feature within an historic district which does not involve a change in design, material, color or outward appearance, nor to prevent landscaping with plants, trees and shrubs, nor to prevent the meeting of requirements certified by a duly authorized public official to be necessary for public safety, nor to prevent any construction or alteration under a permit duly issued prior to the effective date of this chapter.

§ 51-7 Applications for certificates.

Except as this chapter provides in § 51-5, no building or structure within the 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 nonapplicability 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 the Historic District until the certificate required by this section has been issued by the Commission.
Applications for certificates shall be made in triplicate, one copy being filed with the Historic District Commission, one copy with the Building Inspector and one copy with the Town Clerk. Applications shall be in the form specified by the Commission, to include plans and elevations, signed by the draftsman or architect, 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.
Within 14 days of the filing of the application for any certificate, the Commission shall determine whether the application involves any features which are subject to review and/or approval by the Commission.
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 MGL c. 40C, as amended. Public notice of the time, place and purposes of the hearing shall be given at least 14 days in advance, and the Commission shall notify by mail all affected parties as provided in MGL c. 40C, as amended.
The Commission shall make a determination on the application within 60 days of its filing or within such further time as the applicant may allow in writing.
A certificate of appropriateness shall be issued to the applicant if the Commission determines that the proposed construction or alteration will be appropriate and compatible with the preservation and protection of the Historic District. In the case of disapproval of an application for a certificate for appropriateness, the Commission shall place upon its record the reasons for such determination and shall forthwith cause a notice of its determination, accompanied by a copy of the reasons therefor as set forth in the records of the Commission, to be issued to the applicant, and the Commission may make recommendations for changes in the applicant's proposal which, if made, would make the application acceptable to the Commission. If, within 14 days of receipt of such notice, the applicant files a written modification of his application in conformity with the changes recommended by the Commission, the Commission shall issue a certificate of appropriateness to the applicant.
Upon request, the Commission may issue a certificate of nonapplicability to any applicant whose proposed work does not require Commission approval.
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, financial or otherwise, to the applicant and if approval would not result in a substantial detriment to the public welfare. 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 chapter.
Each certificate issued by the Historic District Commission shall be dated and signed by the Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary or such other person designated by the Commission to sign certificates on its behalf. The Commission shall keep a permanent record of its determinations, the vote of each member participating therein and the reasons for determination and shall file a copy of notice of certificates and determinations or disapproval with the Town Clerk and Building Inspector.
An applicant may, within 20 days of the decision by the Commission, appeal to a Superior Court sitting in equity. The Commission shall pay litigation costs only if the Commission is found to have acted in bad faith, with malice or with gross negligence.

§ 51-8 Applicability to town.

The Town of Belchertown shall be subject to the provisions of this chapter, notwithstanding any town bylaw to the contrary.

§ 51-9 Amendments.

This chapter may be amended from time to time by a two-thirds vote of the town meeting, provided that the amendment has first been submitted to the Historic District Commission for its recommendation, subject to the procedures set forth in MGL c. 40C, § 3, as amended.
An existing historic district may only be enlarged or reduced, or additional historic districts may only be established, subject to the procedures and conditions outlined in MGL c. 40C, § 3.

§ 51-10 Severability.

In case any section, paragraph or part of this chapter shall be declared invalid or unconstitutional by any court of last resort, every other section, paragraph or part shall continue in full force and effect.

§ 51-11 When effective.

Following town meeting approval, this chapter shall take effect immediately when the following conditions have been met:
Approval by the Attorney General of the commonwealth.
Filing of a map of the boundaries of the Historic District with the Belchertown Town Clerk, the Belchertown Building Inspector and the Registry of Deeds for Hampshire County.