This coming Tuesday, April 18, the Medford Historical Commission will be going before City Council to request they amend the existing demolition delay bylaw, Chapter 48 of the City Ordinances. The resolution, offered by Councilor Breanna Lungo-Koehn, is to move forward with extending the delay from six months to eighteen or twenty four. We need your help and support. The Commission is the official municipal board charged with protecting our community’s history. One way we do that is by reviewing existing buildings which are slated for demolition. The existing bylaw we operate under however, is ineffective so we have been advocating for change. We view this extension as long overdue and entirely necessary to protect the irreplaceable historic assets which are being demolished on a monthly basis. We need you to voice your support for this amendment at the next Council meeting. Please join us in Alden Council Chambers at 7PM at City Hall and spread the word in the mean time. The Council agenda is attached.
If you plan to attend, here is what you should know:
History: Early in 2016, the Historical Commission began reviewing the existing bylaw to propose a series of amendments to make the ordinance a more effective preservation tool. We crafted a draft bylaw whose most important edits include: a change of reviewable buildings from 1900 to fifty years old and the length of time for a demolition delay from six months to twenty-four. In September, we were invited to meet with the Council’s subcommittee on demolition delay. We sent the enclosed letter with the proposed attachments for their review. We also generated the enclosed Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) list which help further clarify our intent.
Necessity: Demolitions are increasing every month. The number of applications has tripled since 2014 and is still increasing. Last year, we had 15 reviewable cases. All of those are summarized in our 2016 annual report, enclosed. Another dozen buildings were not reviewable. This year, we have already had six applications and we expect more to follow. Based on our estimates, Medford has approximately 3,500 buildings built before 1900 out of a total of 18,000 housing units. If current trends continue, swaths of our rarest housing stock could be wiped out and lost. We must not let that happen.
Changes: What this new bylaw will do is provide the Commission with a series of much needed tools which were not available when the bylaw was originally written. We have updated definitions to clarify what is reviewable under the new bylaw. It will include any building over fifty years old, partial and total demolitions. Like before, a building will need to be determined significant and preferably preserved. If a demolition delay is imposed, we provide a clear set of requirements the applicant must fulfil in order for the Commission to review a request to lift the delay early. If the applicant does nothing, they should be prepared to wait out the full delay.
Outcome: We believe this is an opportunity to push for better projects. We are not anti-development. In most cases, we support carefully crafted projects that match the built landscape. Dozens of rehabilitation projects happen every year and they demonstrate that Medford, and its historic homes, businesses and former industrial blocks are worth saving and re-use. Our goal is to ensure that every building is given equal consideration and review over the very final act of demolition and removal. Once a building is gone, so too is any record or tangible connection with the past.
I ask that you come and support this change for a better Medford. If you have any questions regarding this proposal, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I will have access to my email all weekend and will make it a priority to respond to any questions.
Thank you and see you Tuesday.