Pittsfield City Council to consider extending delay before razing historic structures

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PITTSFIELD — The City Council will consider a more user-friendly demolition regulation that might save older buildings from the wrecking ball.

The council's Ordinance and Rules Committee has recommended all 11 councilors approve the Pittsfield Historical Commission's request to streamline the current ordinance, but double the potential delay period — from six to 12 months — for buildings deemed historically significant.

"Doubling the time frame would create the impetus for a developer to save the structure," City Planner CJ Hoss said at a recent Ordinance and Rules meeting.

Ward 6 Councilor John Krol views the extra time crucial to those fighting to save a potentially historic structure.

"When it comes to public awareness, it takes time for public sentiment to build up," he said.

Since the ordinance was adopted in 2007, the commission has approved more than 150 demolitions, but only asked for a delay on three of them — a warehouse owned by Crane & Co., the former Plunkett School and the St. Joseph's Parish convent.

The Pittsfield Historical Commission has pointed to a Massachusetts Historical Commission report that found many municipalities with six-month delays have extended the time frame to 12, 18 and even 24 months. Many of those same cities and towns also give their historical commissions exclusive approval.

The proposed revised ordinance would give the local commission full authority over granting a demolition request — removing the Community Development Board from the approval process. Any home, business or other structure at least 75 years old automatically triggers the demolition delay ordinance.

The amended regulation also eliminates the need to file a demolition application with the city Building Department — only the commission gets copies of the form. The Building Department would still be notified when a request has been made of the commission.

Under the revamped ordinance, commission-approved demolition permits would be valid for two years, similar to that of zoning special permits, according to city officials.

In delaying a demolition request, the commission says they consider the economic and physical realities of each structure, as well as its historical significance.

The City Council's next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 9.

Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.


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