Historic commission seeks demolition rule changes

The Wilton Historic District and Historic Property Commission is looking to make several changes to its rules and procedures, as well as the town’s demolition delay ordinance.

The commission’s rules and procedures cover “a variety of areas,” said Historic Commission Chair Allison Sanders, and the commission will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, April 4, to finalize discussion and vote on the following proposed changes:

  • Section 2.4 (Committees): Expanding the definition of a "new [historic] district” and adding a “new historic property” description.

  • Section 3.7 (Executive Sessions): Replacing language to reflect Freedom of Information Act requirements, since previous language was incomplete.

  • Section 4: Updating date, time and location information regarding meetings and the use of executive sessions.

The commission’s April 4 meeting and public hearing will take place in Room A of the town hall annex at 7:30 p.m.

To view the commission’s rules and procedures, visit wiltonct.org/info/historicDist7.html.

Demolition ordinance

Sanders said the commission is also looking to strengthen the town’s current demolition ordinance in at least three ways — by extending the town’s demolition delay period, allowing the commission more time to respond to demolition delay requests, and giving the commission opportunity to photograph historic structures slated for demolition.

According to the historic commission’s March 7 meeting minutes, there is also a proposal to change the title of the town’s ordinance from “Ordinance Concerning Stay of Demolition of Historic Buildings” to “Ordinance to Encourage the Preservation of Architecturally, Historically and Culturally Significant Buildings by Delay of Demolition.”

The purpose of the town ordinance is to “provide public notice of the intent to demolish a building, structure or part thereof [that is] more than 50 years old or in other ways significant,” and to impose a waiting period or no more than 90 days “so that consideration may be given to the documentation and preservation of historical, architectural, or culturally significant buildings.”

The historic commission is looking to increase demolition delays in Wilton from 90 to 180 days, which is allowable by state statute.

Sanders said Wilton’s current 90-day demolition delay period is short compared to some nearby towns. For example, she said, Westport has a 180-day delay and Norwalk has a 120-day delay.

The second proposed change pertains to the amount of time the historic commission has to decide whether or not to delay the demolition of a building that has been deemed “significant.”

The commission is looking to increase this amount of time from 15 to 35 days in order to allow time for it to consider and vote during a regular monthly meeting instead “calling for special meetings in between regularly scheduled monthly meetings,” said Sanders.

The third proposed change would actually add something that doesn’t exist in the town’s demolition delay ordinance.

“If a historic structure is slated for demolition,” said Sanders, “the commission requests the opportunity to photograph the structure in order to provide those images to the Wilton Historical Society's archives in the history room to be used for reference and study.”

The ordinance is being “edited for clarity,” said Sanders, with “definitions being added, as well as some other tweaks.”

The ordinance changes have been reviewed by the Building Department and are in the process of being reviewed by the town attorney, said Sanders.

After a Board of Selectmen presentation on the proposed ordinance changes, she said, “I believe the next step is a public hearing.”

“Then, hopefully, the [Board of Selectmen] would vote to accept the ordinance,” said Sanders.

“Following that, the ordinance would appear on the ballot at the next possible Town Meeting, and would be voted on.”

The commission hoped for the changes to be voted on at this year’s Annual Town Meeting in May, said Sanders, but “unfortunately, the ordinance revision is taking longer than anticipated and will not be ready in time.”

Wilton’s current demolition delay ordinance is available at http://bit.ly/2mx2OIU.