Newton's Demolition Review Policy

Adopted in 1985, the City of Newton's Demolition Review Ordinance provides opportunities for preserving historic buildings and structures through a review process and the potential one-year delay of demolition for historic properties. Imposition of a demolition delay allows owners of historically significant properties to explore alternatives to demolition. Review is triggered when a building permit application is sought for a building or structure older than 50 years of age. The Preservation Staff determines if the building or structure proposed for demolition or alteration is historically significant and if the Newton Historical Commission should review it.  Most partial demolition is reviewed and can be approved by staff if deemed appropriate.  Larger projects involving major changes or full demolition of a historically significant building are sent to the Newton Historical Commission for review at its monthly meeting.  If the Commission determines a building or structure is preferably preserved, a demolition delay of up to one-year can be imposed, during which time the property owner and Commission members can work together to seek alternatives including: altering and reusing the building or structure; or moving the building or structure to another location.  When contemplating changes to historic buildings, applicants are encouraged to consult the City of Newton Historic Preservation Design Guidelines available on the Reports and Studies webpage. 

Are approvals needed to demolish an old building?

YES. In Newton, demolition or partial demolition of any building or structure that is 50 years old or older requires the approval of the Preservation Planner and/or the Newton Historical Commission (NHC).  If the building or structure is determined to be historically significant AND preferably preserved, a delay of demolition can be imposed. 

A delay of 18-months can be imposed for properties listed or eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.  A delay of 12-months can be imposed for all other properties.

What are some examples of partial demolition that must be reviewed by the Newton Historical Commission?

Partial demolition can include removing a roof structure, a porch, a rear or side ell. The removal of an exterior wall to accommodate an addition also constitutes partial demolition.

When contemplating changes applicants are encouraged to consult the City of Newton Historic Preservation Design Guidelines available on the Reports and Studies webpage.

What does "historically significant" mean?

A building or structure is historically significant if it is 50 years old or older and meets one or more of the following:

  • is listed on the National and/or State Register of Historic Places
  • is importantly associated with historic person(s) or event(s) or with the architectural, cultural, political, economic, or social history of the City
  • is historically or architecturally important for its period, style, method of construction, or association with a particular architect or builder, either by itself or in the context of a group of buildings or structures
  • is within 150 feet of an historic district and shares contextual similarity with that district

What does "preferably preserved" mean?

A historically significant building or structure is considered to be preferably preserved if its demolition would be detrimental to the historical or architectural heritage of the City. The Newton Historical Commission determines the status of the property at a public hearing based on the degree of historical significance of the building or structure. If a building or structure is determined to be preferably preserved, a delay of demolition is imposed.

What is the purpose of the delay of demolition?

The intent of delaying demolition is to provide time to seek alternative preservation solutions for historically significant buildings or structures. Applicants with properties found to be preferably preserved are encouraged to pursue alternatives to demolition during the delay period.  Possible alternatives include altering and reusing the building or structure through a renovation or addition project or moving it to another location.  Such projects are often granted a waiver of the remainder of the demolition delay by the Newton Historical Commission.   

What is the process for demolition review?

  1. Complete an application for demolition review that describes the proposed demolition. Applications are available in the Inspectional Services Department and online here:
  2. Within 15 days of receipt of a completed application, the Newton Historical Commission or its staff will determine whether the building is historically significant.
  3. If the Preservation Planner approves the alteration or demolition the applicant will be notified, otherwise the Newton Historical Commission will hold a public hearing within 45 days to review the application and determine whether the building or structure is preferably preserved. This decision will be sent to the Commissioner of the Inspectional Services Department and applicant.
  4. The demolition delay begins on the date of the Newton Historical Commission's decision that the building or structure is found to be preferably preserved and is in effect until it expires or a waiver is granted.

Can I do anything after demolition has been delayed?

Yes, a number of situations are possible for granting a waiver of the delay. A waiver of delay may be granted if: a building or structure is saved by being moved to a new location; the applicant has demonstrated a reasonable and unsuccessful effort to locate a purchaser who would preserve the building or structure; the applicant has accepted specific conditions from the Commission regarding the demolition; or the applicant has presented plans for redevelopment of the site, including elevations, which the Commission reviewed and approved.

Waivers for partial demolition of buildings may be granted at any meeting assuming the filing for a waiver submitted by the deadline.  Waivers for full demolition of buildings will not be entertained within the first four months of the demolition delay for properties that obtained a 12 month delay. For properties that obtained an 18 month delay, waivers will not be entertained within the first six months of the demolition delay.  Applicants are strongly encouraged to preserve, renovate and/or add additions to historic buildings rather than demolish them.  When contemplating changes applicants are encouraged to consult the City of Newton Historic Preservation Design Guidelines available on the Reports and Studies webpage. 

How much time should be allotted for the demolition review process?

The process usually takes 15 to 45 days to complete. The Newton Historical Commission meets regularly on the fourth Thursday of each month (with exceptions due to holidays) and meeting agendas are posted two weeks in advance. Provided that the applicant has submitted the necessary information before the 5:00pm deadline 15 days before the next scheduled meeting, the Commission will make a decision at the next meeting.

What information should be provided to the Commission for review?

A completed application includes:

  • a demolition review application signed by the property owner and applicant (if different)
  • a general permit application signed by the property owner
  • proof of ownership 
  • photographs of the property and the building / structure to be demolished
  • photographs of surrounding buildings
  • a site plan or Assessor’s map, available on the City website
  • reasons for demolition

Recommended and applicable additional information listed on the application may also be helpful in making a determination. It is the applicant's responsibility to submit this information on time.

Who should attend the meeting?

Attendance by the applicant or the applicant's agent is recommended but not required. In discussing the property, the Commission may have questions or suggestions for the applicant, which could impact the final decision.

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