Checklist for the Homeowner Planning Work in a National Register District
Ask yourself the following questions:
1. Is my house "contributing" (built before 1940)? Yes or No
2. Does the work-plan involve 25% or more of the gross floor space and/or am I planning to demolish the structure? Yes or No
3. Do I need a building permit? Yes or No
4. Is this exterior work? Yes or No
Your work will involve the review process ONLY if you answered YES to ALL the questions.
Make Your Voice Heard
HOW TO MAKE YOUR VIEWS KNOWN TO BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS
If you receive an abutters' notice or read a legal notice in the Chronicle that activity in which you have a concern will be occurring near your property, you may communicate with the relevant authority to express those concerns. Letters should be sent to the appropriate entity at 261 George Ryder Road, Chatham, MA 02633, or you may e-mail it to the contact person shown below. Since the notices are just summaries, it is a good idea to request a copy of the plans, which you usually can obtain by e-mail by calling the contact person at the Community Development Department: 508-945-5168
Request that your letter be put in the appropriate file and read into the record. Your letter does not have to be long or detailed. It is important to submit your letter well in advance of the hearing, since information packets are often sent to the commissioners a week ahead.
Boards and Commissions Review the Following-
Each of the Town’s regulatory boards and commissions has a specific mandate, and each has a web page on the Town’s website. For the Historical Commission (CHC) and Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) this page includes references to the rules and regulations which explain in detail what that entity may rule upon. Your letter or comments will have greater impact to the extent that it addresses those issues.
CHC: For buildings listed as contributing structures in the OVA National Historic Register District the CHC considers whether the proposed alterations impact over 25% of the gross floor area and are “substantial” to the extent they would jeopardize its status as an historic building. If the CHC finds they are, it must refer the matter to the Cape Cod Commission, which usually will try to negotiate with the applicant to reduce the impact, and/or deny the project. The primary focus of the CHC hearings is on preservation of historic character and streetscape. The contact person for the CHC is Michele Clarke: email@example.com
ZBA: Jurisdiction of the ZBA is governed by the Town zoning bylaw, and it hears applications which are not approved by the Building Commissioner. The bylaw is very detailed, including the percentage of land that may be covered by a structure, setback distances, etc., with which many of the houses in the OVA do not comply. In that instance the property owner needs to obtain a variance or special permit, which requires that the project will not be “substantially more detrimental to the neighborhood” than the existing situation. Since this is a very subjective standard, the ZBA pays particular attention to concerns of abutters and neighbors and welcomes their comments. If the Board does grant a special permit, it may also restrict noise and/or working hours as a condition of the permit, as well as address issues of construction vehicles impeding traffic. The contact person for the ZBA is Sarah Clark: firstname.lastname@example.org
Chatham Planning Board: This Board regulates sub-divisions and approves site plans on any change of use of property. While the OVA has little open land available, “approval not required” divisions of properties which are nonconforming due to size can occur if there is adequate frontage on a passable way. The contact person is Aly Sabatino: email@example.com
Chatham Conservation Commission: This Commission has jurisdiction over proposed alterations to the land within 100 feet of a wetland (e.g. the Mill Pond and adjacent marshes). It does not have any authority over buildings except to the extent the footprint is proposed to expand in the resource area. However, neighbors may legitimately express concerns over cutting or planting of vegetation that impacts their property or view. The contact person is Mary Fougere: firstname.lastname@example.org
What to look for in the plans
- The mass, size and height of the new addition (especially if it compromises the original structure)
- The increase of building footprint into the setbacks, which can result in loss of privacy for abutters, loss of greenspace and views
- Inappropriate and invasive architectural obtrusions, such as second story decks, cupolas, lighthouses, bay windows, etc.
- Incompatibility with nearby houses
The Old Village Association hopes that together we can set high standards for development in our neighborhood and maintain the special characteristics we worked so hard to protect and for which we were honored as a National Register District.