Sheffield Annual Town Meeting to weigh protection of historic structures


SHEFFIELD -- The Historical Commission will request at Annual Town Meeting the authority to delay demolition on buildings deemed historically significant.

The 27-article warrant will be voted on at 7 p.m. Monday at Mount Everett Regional High School.

The commission wants the right to delay demolition for a year on structures that have "character, interest, or value as part of the development, heritage or cultural characteristics" of Sheffield.

"It doesn't take any property owner's rights away, but it does put a delay in your ability to get a demolition permit," Historical Commission Chairman Dennis Sears said.

Before someone could receive a demolition permit, the request would need to be reviewed by the Historical Commission. After being alerted, the Historical Commission would hold a meeting in 30 days to determine whether a building is "preferably preserved," which would prevent the owner from demolishing the building for a year.

People during that period could seek options that would restore, sell, or move the structure to a different location. The property owner would have the option of appealing the decision in court.

"We have 218 structures that are on the state or national historical registers," Sears said. "Of those 218, only 36 have any form of historical preservation because they are in the Ashley Fall Historical District."

Also at the meeting, the town is requesting a $9.85 million total budget for fiscal 2015, an increase of 2.05 percent.

Department purchases include a new police cruiser and highway department truck, and $10,000 for legal services in connection with the Rest of River cleanup, an effort by six municipalities -- Pittsfield, Lee, Lenox, Stockbridge, Great Barrington and Lenox -- to monitor the cleanup of pollutants that leeched into the Housatonic River from a former GE transformer plant in Pittsfield.

There is also a citizen petition for a moratorium on smart meters, which track electrical energy consumption and uses two-way communications to relay real-time information on consumption to utility companies. The moratorium would be in effect until National Grid, a utility company, implements a community opt-out program.

Proponents of smart meters say it's a tool that will lead to better efficiency and tracking of energy consumption, while opponents say the technology poses problems related to health, invasion of personal privacy, and opens the door to higher energy costs.

To reach John Sakata:

or (413) 496-6240.

On Twitter: @jsakata


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