The Ipswich Historical Commission has placed a question on the Warrant for the 2014 Fall Town Meeting on Tuesday, October 21, 2014 which would establish an Architectural Preservation District (APD) for the most historic areas of the town.
The District would be established by adoption of a bylaw at Town Meeting under the Home Rule Amendment of the Massachusetts Constitution and would be administered by an Architectural Preservation District Commission. The Architectural Preservation District proposal has been revised through a series of open meetings of the Historical Commission, and continues to be presented for comments and review through public meetings this summer. The proposed APD encompasses an area roughly defined as 220 acres beginning at the South Green, continuing along the river to the Town Wharf, East and High Streets to the High Street Bridge, North Main Street and Meeting House Green.
Title: Adoption of Architectural Preservation District
Summary: Ipswich has more first period houses (59) than any other community in the nation, together with numerous 18th- and 19th- century houses of equal merit. Architecturally speaking, Ipswich is a town of major historical significance. But without its historic houses, the town center would be pleasant but undistinguished. Ipswich is defined by its architectural heritage, but none of this historic architecture is protected for the future. To set this matter right, the Ipswich Historical Commission is proposing that the town meeting adopt a general bylaw creating an Architectural Preservation District (APD) that would be overseen by an Architectural Preservation District Commission (APDC).
The intent of the proposed APD is to preserve the core of the town’s architectural heritage while treading with a light foot. As proposed, the five-member APDC, which will be appointed by the Board of Selectmen and include professional designers, craftsman, and APD residents, will be primarily consultative and advisory, assisting the owners of homes within the APD with conserving their unique district and its neighborhoods.
The proposed bylaw exempts many home improvements, such as painting, installation/ replacement of storm/screen windows, removal/replacement of window and door shutters, and all interior alterations, from any consideration by the APD Commission. Owners undertaking more substantive improvements, such as building small additions or replacing windows, doors, trim, and siding in a manner substantially different from the existing materials, design or dimensions, are encouraged to use the APDC as an advisory resource that they and/or their architects may consult. The aim of the consultation will be to reach a consensus that meets the requirements of the owner and preserves the integrity of the district. Such consultation will be voluntary, non-binding, expeditious, and free.
The proposed bylaw will require property owners to appear before the Commission and obtain their approval only in the following three instances:
- Demolition of a building constructed between 1634 and 1900.
- Construction of a new building or substantial addition to an existing building.
- Substantial exterior alteration to a building constructed prior to 1900. (Substantial alteration is defined by the bylaw as an alteration to a building’s exterior which bears a cost that equals or exceeds 50% of the market value of the structure prior to renovation, or which significantly changes the shape, height and proportions, or scale of the building, and/or its relationship to surrounding structures.)
In each of the instances cited above, the Commission’s determinations are binding. When reviewing new construction or substantial exterior alterations, the Commission considers the compatibility of the proposed building with neighboring buildings, as well as historic architectural principles and standards related to building shape, scale, and relationship of the building to the street and other structures.
Creating an APD provides a level of protection for the town’s irreplaceable historic resources that currently does not exist. It does so in a manner that is significantly less onerous and restrictive for property owners than local historic districts, which the town meeting has twice rejected, most recently 20 years ago. By making APD Commission review optional for the vast majority of home improvements, the proposed bylaw responds to the community’s concerns about over-regulation, while providing residents in the district some assurance that other owners in their district will not undertake irreversible actions that would devalue their properties.
The purpose of the Design Guideligns is to supplement the standards listed in the bylaw by providing explanation and photographic examples. While the Design Guidelines will be adopted shortly after the APDC is established, the Historical Commission has prepared draft guidelines to facilitate that process. View a draft set of design guidelines created by the Historical Commission.
Questions and Answers
What is an Architectural Preservation District (APD)?
Similar to a Neighborhood Conservation District, an APD is the product of a grassroots initiative by local residents to preserve an area with particular architectural or historical significance.
Doesn’t Ipswich have an Historic District?
Ipswich has six neighborhood districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This listing recognizes the historic and architectural significance of our community but has no local authority and does not provide protection from demolitions or inappropriate new construction.
What areas would be in the Architectural Preservation District?
Houses near Meeting House Green, the East End, South Green, and the High Street National Register Districts are among the oldest areas of Ipswich and could receive long-overdue protection.
Why do we need an APD?
For generations, Ipswich residents have taken care to preserve the historic quality of their properties. An APD will help assure that future generations can enjoy our town’s unique historical and architectural heritage.
How would the APD affect me?
The proposed APD bylaw would provide a participatory process for protection and an educational means for providing architectural information. A preservation commission consisting of town residents would review applications for construction permits in the proposed district. Decisions regarding new construction or demolition would be binding, while reviews of other proposed alterations would be voluntary and are designed to help homeowners benefit from the expertise of the Commission. Interior work, paint colors, roofing and repairs would be exempt from review.
What are the advantages of establishing an Architectural Preservation District in Ipswich?
An APD protects the investments of owners and residents by encouraging thoughtful design and community cohesion. Preservation of homes and streetscapes is an important part of a comprehensive environmental policy, and creating an APD preserves a timeline and record of our community. Preservation of local historic neighborhoods promotes economic growth, and important decisions about preserving our community are made through a structured participatory process.
Properties proposed to be included in the Architectural Preservation District
This is a list of streets from the above map and is not an official document.
County Street: all
- County Road: from County Street to the end of the South Green; to and including the Nathaniel Wade house at the corner of Ward Street on the opposite side
- East Street: all to the Town Wharf
- Elm Street: all
- Green Street: all
- High Street: from North Main Street to the commuter rail overpass.
- Hovey Street: all
- Meeting House Green (North Green): all
- North Main Street: all
- South Main Street: All of the east side, and all from the pedestrian bridge to the South Green
- Scottons Lane: all
- South Green: all
- Summer Street: all
- Turkey Shore Road: from the Green Street bridge to Labor in Vain Road
- Water Street: all
Purpose and Scope: The purpose of the bylaw would be to preserve and protect groups of buildings and the characteristics of their neighborhood settings that are important to the architectural, cultural, economic, political or social history of the town of Ipswich. The bylaw is also intended to limit the detrimental effect of alterations, additions, demolitions and new construction on the character of such buildings and their neighborhood settings. Through this bylaw, alterations, additions, demolition and new construction may be reviewed for compatibility with the existing buildings, setting and neighborhood character. This bylaw seeks to encourage the protection of the built environment through a combination of binding and non-binding regulatory review. This bylaw promotes the public welfare by making the town more attractive and desirable.
APD Commission: A Commission consisting of five members would be appointed by the Board of Selectmen. The Commission shall include, if possible, one member of the Ipswich Historical Commission; a landscape architect or an architect; a craftsperson or building contractor familiar with historic restoration; a licensed real estate agent; and at least two residents of the APD. Members and alternates of an Architectural Preservation District Commission shall by reason of experience or education have demonstrable knowledge and concern for improvement, conservation and enhancement of the Architectural Preservation District.
APD Powers and Duties: The Commission shall exercise its powers in administering and regulating the new construction and demolition of buildings within the Architectural Preservation District as set forth under the procedures and criteria established in this bylaw. No building within the Architectural Preservation District constructed before 1900 shall be demolished without consent of the APD Commission. No building shall be constructed or substantially altered within the APD (substantial alteration is defined in the bylaw) until it has received a Certificate to Alter from the Commission.
The following would be excluded from Commission’s review:
- Repairs, routine maintenance, and projects not requiring a building (or demolition) permit by Building Inspection Department regulations.
- Temporary buildings subject to time limits and size limits by the Architectural Preservation District Commission.
- Interior Alterations.
- Painting and roof material colors.
- Storm windows and doors, screen windows and doors.
- Removal or replacement of gutters and downspouts.
- Removal or replacement of window and door shutters.
- Removal of substitute siding.
- Structures not defined as buildings or parts of buildings.
- Reconstruction, substantially similar in exterior design, of a building, damaged or destroyed by fire, storm or other disaster.
Alterations with a voluntary non-binding review. In reviewing the application, the Commission may provide advisory recommendations on how the Alteration could be compatible with or follow more closely the Design Guidelines
- Accessibility improvements including ramps, rails, walkways and mechanical equipment associated with exterior architectural barriers subject to MGL 40A and other applicable state or federal laws.
- Replacement of windows, doors, architectural trim, and siding in ways that substantially differ from existing materials, design or dimensions.
- Construction of a new building or addition that does not have a roof or is not fully enclosed by load-bearing walls, including the replacement and extension of a porch or deck.
- Any other alteration not classified by Code Enforcement regulations as routine maintenance that does not increase building volume.
Alterations Which Require Commission Review: The following Alterations require the submittal of an application for review by the Commission: The decision of the Commission shall be binding on the applicant.
(a) Demolition of a building or part of a building on a Contributing Property.
(b) Substantial Exterior Alteration to a Contributing Property. (DEFINITIONS, ADDITION, SUBSTANTIAL: Any addition to a principal or accessory contributing building that increases the existing gross floor area by 1,000 square feet or by thirty percent (30%) or more, whichever is less.)
(c) New construction of buildings on properties within the APD, including substantial additions fully enclosed by walls and a roof, but not including accessory buildings that are less than 250 square feet in area.
Take a virtual tour of the houses and historic neighborhoods in and around the proposed Ipswich Architectural Preservation District.