Powers and Duties

The following is from the town of Ipswich Administrative Manual, updated 1998:

  • The Historical Commission consists of seven members appointed by the Town Manager with the approval of the Selectmen for staggered three-year terms.
  • The purpose of the Historical Commission is to preserve, protect, and develop the historical and archaeological assets of the Town in accordance with Section 8D of Chapter 40 of the General Laws of Massachusetts.
  • The commission may conduct research for places of historic and archaeological value, cooperating with the state.
  • It coordinates the activities of unofficial bodies organized for similar purposes and may, subject to appropriation and approval by the Town Manager, advertise, prepare, print, and distribute books, maps, charts, plans, and pamphlets which it deems necessary for its work.
  • The Commission may hold hearings, and may propose contracts for execution with individuals, organizations, and institutions for services furthering the objectives of their programs, such as historical preservation covenants.
  • The Commission may recommend that the Town acquire property by gift, purchase, grant, bequest, devise, lease or otherwise a fee of significant historical value.
  • The Historical Commission surveys and compiles a listing of all historical sites and buildings within the Town, public and private, determines the functions and structures of all historical organizations within the Town, and holds seminars with other historical organizations.
  • It further determines the requirements for repair, reconstruction, and protection of historical landmarks, and assists and cooperates with public commissions the conduct of public historical events. It also administers and enforces  provisions of “The Demolition Delay By-Law.”
  • The Historical Commission meets monthly. The Commission advises the Selectmen on policies and legislation concerning the preservation, protection and development of historical or archaeological assets in the Town.
  • The Commission interacts with and receives administrative support through the Planning and Development Department and the Building Inspector, and interacts with the Town Manager to effectuate publication of its activities and acquisition of interests in historical properties.
  • The Historical Commission also interacts with the Planning Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Public Works department, the Conservation Commission, and the Board of Health, as necessary when those boards are considering properties of historical or archaeological value.

Read the complete handbook for members of town boards

Massachusetts General Law Chapter 40 Section 8D:

Historical commission; establishment; powers and duties

A city or town which accepts this section may establish an historical commission, hereinafter called the commission, for the preservation, protection and development of the historical or archeological assets of such city or town.

  • Such commission shall conduct researches for places of historic or archaeological value, shall cooperate with the state archaeologist in conducting such researches or other surveys, and shall seek to coordinate the activities of unofficial bodies organized for similar purposes, and may advertise, prepare, print and distribute books, maps, charts, plans and pamphlets which it deems necessary for its work.
  • For the purpose of protecting and preserving such places, it may make such recommendations as it deems necessary to the city council or the selectmen and, subject to the approval of the city council or the selectmen, to the Massachusetts historical commission, that any such place be certified as an historical or archaeological landmark.
  • It shall report to the state archeologist the existence of any archaeological, paleontological or historical site or object discovered in accordance with section twenty-seven C of chapter nine, and shall apply for permits necessary pursuant to said section twenty-seven C. Any information received by a local historical commission with respect to the location of sites and specimens, as defined in section twenty-six B of chapter nine, shall not be a public record.
  • The commission may hold hearings, may enter into contracts with individuals, organizations and institutions for services furthering the objectives of the commission’s program; may enter into contracts with local or regional associations for cooperative endeavors furthering the commission’s program; may accept gifts, contributions and bequests of funds from individuals, foundations and from federal, state or other governmental bodies for the purpose of furthering the commission’s program; may make and sign any agreements and may do and perform any and all acts which may be necessary or desirable to carry out the purposes of this section.
  • It shall keep accurate records of its meetings and actions and shall file an annual report which shall be printed in the case of towns in the annual town report. The commission may appoint such clerks and other employees as it may from time to time require.
  • The commission shall consist of not less than three nor more than seven members. In cities the members shall be appointed by the mayor, subject to the provisions of the city charter, except that in cities having a city manager form of government, said appointments shall be by the city manager, subject to the provisions of the charter; and in towns they shall be appointed by the selectmen, excepting towns having a town manager form of government, in which towns appointments shall be made by the town manager, subject to the approval of the selectmen. When a commission is first established, the terms of the members shall be for one, two or three years, and so arranged that the terms of approximately one-third of the members will expire each year, and their successors shall be appointed for terms of three years each. Any member of a commission so appointed may, after a public hearing if requested, be removed for cause by the appointing authority. A vacancy occurring otherwise than by expiration of a term shall in a city or town be filled for the unexpired term in the same manner as an original appointment.
  • Said commission may acquire in the name of the city or town by gift, purchase, grant, bequest, devise, lease or otherwise the fee or lesser interest in real or personal property of significant historical value and may manage the same.
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