July 25, 2014

Essex Selectmen Delay Changes to Delay of Demolition Ordinance – Seek Input from Historical Society

ESSEX— The board of selectmen will delay action on any possible changes to the town’s delay of demolition ordinance, seeking input from the Essex Historical Society and the planning commission before considering any changes that would be brought to the voters for approval at a town meeting.

The board discussed possible changes to the 2004 town ordinance, which includes a 90 days delay of demolition rule for structures older than 75 years, at a Dec. 18 meeting, First Selectman Norman Needleman suggested several possible changes, including setting a fixed date of 1900 for houses and other structures to qualify for the delay of demolition rule, and requiring the town historian and Essex Historical Society to request a delay of demolition for a structure. The current ordinance allows any resident to petition the building official for a 90 days delay of demolition on a structure older than 75 years, for a current trigger date of structures built before 1939.

It was these possible changes, particularly the 1900 trigger date, that brought several members of the historical society to Wednesday’s meeting to raise objections. The group included appointed town historian Chris Pugliuco, Eve Potts, and Shirley Malcarne, window of the late long-time town historian and author Donald Malcarne. It was Malcarne, who had written several books about the town’s historic structures, that pushed for adoption of the ordinance, and the current wording, in 2004.

Potts said she “strongly objects” to any changes that would weaken the ordinance She said the ordinance is doing what it was intended to do, providing a 90 days review period for structures that may have historic value. Pugliuco noted that many structures built in the 1920s, including factory houses and Sears Roebuck kit houses, have now become historically and architecturally significant.

Needleman said the board’s review of the ordinance is just beginning, with no immediate plans to present any proposed revisions to a town meeting. He said the board would seek input from the historical society and the planning commission, and then hold a public hearing on any possible changes.

Needleman added that he is “not close minded” about a 1900 trigger date for the ordinance, while adding that he was “never happy” with the current “rolling date” set at 75 years. Selectman Bruce Glowac said the board should be cautious in setting any fixed trigger date for the ordinance.