Building Permits for Historic Structures

Demolition Delay Bylaw

The Ipswich building inspectors office may require applicants for repairs, renovation, or demolition permits to present their plans at an Ipswich Historical Commission meeting. Included are buildings 75 yrs. or older, buildings in the Historic District, and buildings listed on any historic register:

  • Buildings 75 yrs. or older: A  property owner requesting a demolition permit from the Building Department must first receive approval from the Ipswich Historical Commission. If the Historical Commission determines that the building is preferably preserved, a delay period is imposed. Massachusetts allows towns to enact and enforce a one year ‘Demolition Delay Bylaw’ to delay the whole or partial demolition of any structure greater than 75 years old.  This gains the town time to convince the owner to seek alternate solutions to the demolition of the structure. Demolition is defined as “any act of pulling down, destroying, removing, or razing a building, or any substantial exterior portion thereof, or commencing the work of total or substantial destruction, with the intent of completing the same.”

Architectural Preservation District bylaw

  • Buildings in the Ipswich Architectural Preservation  District:  Ipswich does not have a binding Historic District bylaw, but does have an Architectural Preservation District bylaw. Major renovations may require a review of the Ipswich Architectural Preservation District Commission.   This includes most but not all of the houses in our town’s oldest National Historic Districts:
    • East End Historic District
    • High St. Historic District
    • South Green Historic District
    • Meetinghouse Green Historic District
  • Buildings listed on any historic register:  Any new construction projects or renovations to existing buildings that require funding, licenses, or permits from any state or federal governmental agencies must be reviewed by the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC) for impacts to historic and archaeological properties.  It is the nature of the federal or state agency involvement that triggers MHC review, not listing in the National or State Registers of Historic Places.  A listing in either register does not necessarily require review and likewise, lack of listing does not eliminate the need for review.  The National Register of Historic Places provides formal recognition of a property’s historical, architectural, or archeological significance.  Placement on the register allows the property’s owner to be eligible for grants and certain tax credits and special consideration when applying the building code.  However, National Register listing places no obligations on private property owners.  There are no restrictions on the use, treatment, transfer, or disposition of the property and structures.
  • Houses and Buildings with preservation agreements: Almost 40 houses in Ipswich have preservation agreements or covenants with the Ipswich Historical Commission or with other preservation organizations. The building inspector shall inform and confer with the Historical Commission before granting a permit that would alter listed features in the houses preservation covenant.

Historic Community Benefit for Special Permits

The Planning Board shall not grant a special permit for the number of dwelling units allowed by the Town of Ipswich Zoning Bylaw unless the applicant can provide a community benefit as determined by the Board.

a. Any conversion of an accessory building into a residential unit subject to a permanent affordability restriction shall be considered a community benefit.

b. Other potential uses that the Planning Board may find to meet a community need are as follows:

  • Use of the dwelling unit for a family member, provided that upon the unit being vacated by family, use of the unit shall only be continued as a residential dwelling if it is affordable housing as defined in 3.a.
  • Applicant pays, to the affordable housing trust, a fee in lieu of providing an affordable unit. The amount of the fee shall be determined by the Planning Board.
  • Preservation, renovation, and reuse of an accessory building determined by the Planning Board to have historical or architectural significance. The Planning Board may refer the application the the Historical Commission for study and consideration.

(Amended by 10/20/03 Special Town Meeting; approved by Attorney General 1/22/04)

Design Review Bylaw

The Design Review Bylaw was approved at a Special Town Meeting in the Fall of 2005. As an outgrowth of the Ipswich Community Development Plan (CDP) and the Ipswich Town Character Statement (TCS), the Design Review Bylaw was drafted by a study committee under the direction of the Ipswich Planning Office in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 40A of the Massachusetts General Laws.

Description: The recommendations of the Design Review Board are a series of written comments and observations about a project’s design that are provided on an advisory basis to the Planning Board as part of the official review of the project.  A request  to the Planning Office is submitted by a project owner or developer asking that the Design Review Board schedule a meeting to have an informal discussion with the applicant to review a project’s preliminary design. Based on the materials submitted by the applicant and the discussion from the Design Board review, the Board will prepare written recommendations regarding the project’s design and submit them to the Planning Board.

Composition: The terms of all members and alternate members of the Design Review Board are three years. The Design Review Board consists of five members and two alternates, with the following qualifications, if possible: two registered architects, landscape architects or persons with equivalent professional training; one resident who is either a business or commercial property owner/operator, or is a member of an organization representing Ipswich business owners; and one residential property owner.

Appointments to the Design Review Board are made as follows:
1. Two members are appointed by the planning board;
2. One member is appointed by the Historical Commission.
3. Four members are appointed by the Board of Selectmen, two of whom shall be alternates.

Read complete guidelines for the design review process

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