ROCKPORT -- A group of Rockport residents are proposing changes in the town’s bylaws that define which houses or other buildings should be carefully reviewed and considered by local officials before undergoing changes -- including any moves aimed at tearing them down.
The proposal includes two new qualifications that would trigger officials to perform a site plan review of a house or other building.
Under the plan, any single family or two-family homes larger than 4,500 square feet would be reviewed by officials before any modifications could be made to the homes.
The minimum size for a home to require a site plan review now is 6,000 square feet of gross floor area, according to Eric Hutchins, a collaborator on the proposal. Hutchins and other proponents say the 6,000-foot figure was too large, and does not include all homes that should undergo site plan reviews before demolition.
He said the new size specification would only encompass a few more homes, not many.
“It’s not that a net is being cast with a small mesh,” Hutchins said. “It’s still very large.”
A second part of the proposal would trigger site plan review for any home that is both encompasses more than 800 square feet large, and is 100 years old or older. A house would need to meet both the size and the age requirement in order to qualify for the site plan review under that provision.
In the case of a site plan review, applications to demolish, reconstruct or add on to any house or other structure covered under the new guidelines would be reviewed by town officials, including fire officials, police officers and the town’s conservation director. The applicant would then have to wait for approval from all officials before beginning work on the property.
Hutchins said the proposal is not a a so-called “demolition delay” bylaw because there is no set time for how long demolition would be delayed. A demolition delay proposal was raised in Manchester this past spring, and emphatically shot down at that community’s Town Meeting in April.
Rockport’s proposed site plan review proposal would simply open the project up to a town-wide discussion, according to Hutchins.
“Houses will get torn down, new houses will be built. This is not an effort to stop change,” Hutchins said. He said the proposal would, however, “ensure some level of review as the town transitions into the future.”
Though the proposed changes come soon after controversial zoning decisions in Rockport, regarding the demolition of a smokestack on Cape Ann Tool Company and a residents’ attempt to build a heliport on his property, Hutchins did not specify which events may have inspired the proposed changes.
“It was probably inspired by a number of projects, a number of tear-downs that have happened,” Hutchins said. “People just want to be notified about them, understand the people and the projects a little more.”
Rockport’s Zoning Administrator Alan Battistelli said that, although he has not read the proposal, he doubts a minor delay would be harmful.
“If that gives people a chance to save a building or move a building to a new location, then that could be good thing,” Battistelli said.
As a builder, he noted that moving a building can be extremely difficult. But Battistelli also noted that any delay caused by the review, would need to have a means to an end.
“It has to be reasonable goals, whether that be saving the building or determining that a building is a historic building,” Battistelli said.
Proponents hope for the proposal to go before the town at the Fall Town Meeting and collected 175 signatures on a petition to discuss the proposal. The town only requires 100 signatures.
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at email@example.com