WellesleyWeston Magazine

SUMMER 2017

Launched in 2005, WellesleyWeston Magazine is a quarterly publication tailored to Wellesley and Weston residents and edited to enrich the experience of living in two of Massachusetts' most desirable communities.

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[ forum ] E I L E E N B R A C K E N B U R Y writer Delaying Demolition wellesley is losing its historic homes at an alarming pace. The town has one of the highest demolition rates in the Boston Metro area, and a home is lost at the rate of one house every 3.8 days. According to the Wellesley Historical Commission, 772 houses (and counting) have been demolished since 2002. In 2015 alone, 95 demolition permits were issued. New specu- lative or "spec" houses are often designed with little regard to historic neighborhood character, setbacks, lot coverage, or conservation of the existing tree canopy. Larger lots are subdivided, and enormous three-story houses now loom over their neighbors. And the majority of Wellesley resi- dents believe that the increased rate of demolitions is a problem: a 2015 survey conducted by the Wellesley Planning Board Residential Development Working Group found that over 70 percent of Wellesley residents agreed that both the number of teardowns and the impact of new construc- tion on neighborhood character were concerns. Wellesley has been a particularly attractive town to developers due to the lack of restrictions in place in regards to demolishing historic buildings. Many towns across the country have what's known as a demolition delay bylaw. Demolition delay bylaws help cities and towns protect against the loss of historic structures and neighborhood character. These bylaws are currently in place in 148 Massachusetts municipalities, including all of the towns surrounding Wellesley: Weston, Natick, Newton, Needham, and Dover. Other communities like Waltham, Lincoln, Brookline, Framingham, Concord, Lexington, Sudbury, and Boston also have demolition delay bylaws. As a result, when a developer is looking for an easy place to tear down a house and put up a McMansion, Wellesley is the first place they look. A demolition delay puts our town on a level playing field with other similar communities. The accelerated pace of demolition has detrimental effects beyond the loss of history. Smaller houses are generally replaced with much larger, more expensive homes, pricing out families looking to move to Wellesley and limiting diversity. From an environmental perspective, the loss of usable houses results in a massive waste of materials. Property lots are clear-cut with little regard to saving existing trees. There is also the huge environmental cost of con- structing a new house both in materials and transportation. The Demolition Review Bylaw proposed by the Wellesley Historical Commission was voted on and passed at the 2017 Annual Town Meeting. The Bylaw was endorsed by the Natural Resources Commission, the Historic District Commission, and the Planning Board. As written, the Demolition Review Bylaw is intended to "assure the preservation and en- hancement of the Town of Wellesley's his- torical and cultural heritage by preserving, rehabilitating, or restoring whenever pos- sible, buildings that have distinctive architec- tural features or historical associations that contribute to the historic fabric of the Town." The Bylaw will apply to buildings con- structed before December 31, 1949; second- ary structures like garages and sheds are not subject to review. Property owners are free to alter the interior structure of their buildings, 48 W e l l e s l e y W e s t o n M a g a z i n e | s u m m e r 2 0 1 7

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