Historical Society seeks to curb loss of historic houses

May 8, 2018

Members of the Sippican Historical Society are hoping to curb the future demolition of historically significant or important buildings via a measure on the May 14 Town Meeting agenda.

"We're looking to preserve old, historically significant houses," Historical Society President Frank McNamee told the Planning Board on Monday.

The measure was proposed by Judith Rosbe and added to the agenda via citizens petition. Planning Board members opted to support it.

The proposal follows recent public outcry around the demolition of older homes in Marion Village, including the Captain Hammond House on Main Street.

"Through this bylaw," the petition reads, "owners of such buildings are encouraged to seek out alternative options that will preserve, rehabilitate or restore such buildings, rather than demolish them."

The houses affected by the bylaw, if approved, would be more than 75 years old and have some type of historical significance, such as famous architecture.

Property owners seeking to tear down a potentially historic property would need to file an application with the town's building commissioner and alert Marion's Historical Commission. Applicants would need to provide a description of the building, an explanation for requesting the demolition permit, a description of the proposed new use of the property, and photographs of the building.

If the Historical Commission decides that the house isn't a "significant building," the building commissioner could sign a demolition permit as soon as the paperwork is complete.

If the Historical Commission decides that the house should not be demolished, it will then decide if the building should be preserved. The Commission would offer alternatives to demolition, and the building commissioner would not be able to issue a demolition permit for a year.

In that time, the owner would need to seek someone willing to to restore the building. If the owner makes a determined effort to find someone to restore the building -- and cannot -- only then would a demolition permit be issued.

The only way to demolish an older house more quickly than a year under the proposed bylaw is if the house is in imminent danger to public safety.

The Historical Society is also attempting to curb "demolition by neglect," when buildings are abandoned, fall into disrepair, and can thus be torn down. If a house is thought to be undergoing demolition by neglect, the Historical Commission would attempt to negotiate a voluntary agreement with the property owners to work out a repair schedule. If an agreement cannot be reached, or repairs are not being carried out, the Historical Commission would seek "any lawful remedy" to get the property repaired.

Marion's Town Meeting will be held on May 14 in the Multi-Purpose Room at Sippican School. All registered voters may attend and vote.