Pittsfield Historical Commission looks to streamline, lengthen demolition process

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PITTSFIELD — The Pittsfield Historical Commission looks to streamline the city's demolition delay regulation, but double the potential delay period for buildings deemed historically significant.

The seven-member panel recently proposed to the City Council a revision to the nine-year-old ordinance that also would give the commission full authority over granting a demolition request — removing the Community Development Board from the approval process.

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.

"This just streamlines the procedure; you don't have to go through three steps," Commission Chairman John Dickson said during the commission's monthly meeting on Monday.

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.

The amended ordinance also calls for extending a demolition delay from six to 12 months. 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, the former Plunkett School and the St. Joseph's Parish convent.

"The commission has taken a reasonable approach to the delays," said City Planner CJ Hoss.

In a separate letter to the council, the commission points 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.

"A 12-month delay creates a greater incentive for an applicant to attempt to re-use or mitigate the impacts of demolition," the commission wrote.

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 has referred the proposal to its Ordinance and Rules committee, which has yet to schedule its monthly meeting in July. Once reviewed and debated, the five-person committee will issue a recommendation to the entire 11-member council on whether to adopt the revised regulation.

The commission hopes the council shares their reasons for amending the ordinance.

"We want to make it work for the community as a whole," said commission member Kathleen Reilly.

Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.


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