Town of Cohasset, MA
Norfolk County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Meeting of the Town of Cohasset as Art. XII of the 1988 General Bylaws. Amendments noted where applicable.]
This bylaw shall be known, and may be referred to, as the "Historic District Bylaw." The purpose of this bylaw is to establish within the Town of Cohasset a historic district which shall preserve and protect the distinctive architectural character of the Cohasset Common as a permanent legacy.
There is hereby established in the Town of Cohasset a district to be known as the "Cohasset Common Historic District," as shown on a plan to be filed with the Cohasset Town Clerk and the Massachusetts Historical Commission and to be recorded with the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds.
A. 
Membership. There is hereby established the Cohasset Common Historic District Commission ("the Commission"), which shall consist of seven members appointed by the Selectmen and which shall at all times include at least four members who are residents of the Historic District itself, at least one member who is a licensed realtor, at least one member chosen from nominees submitted by the American Institute of Architects, and at least one chosen from nominees submitted by the Cohasset Historical Society; provided, however, that with respect to the latter two organizations, if no nominee is proposed to the Selectmen within 30 days of the respective organization's receipt of a request for nominees from the Selectmen, the Selectmen may proceed to appoint any architect or any member of the Cohasset Historical Society, as the case may be.
B. 
Alternates. There shall also be two alternate members appointed by the Selectmen, one of whom at all times shall be a resident of the Historic District.
C. 
Qualifications. All members and both alternate members must be year-round residents of the Town of Cohasset.
D. 
Officers. The Commission shall elect a Chairman and a Vice Chairman from within its number and a Secretary who may be within or without its number. In the absence of the Chairman, the Vice Chairman shall preside at meetings.
E. 
Terms. When the original members of the Commission are appointed by the Selectmen, three members and one alternate shall be appointed for a term of one year, two members and one alternate for a term of two years, and two members for a term of three years, and members (including alternate members) may be reappointed an unlimited number of times. Vacancies shall be filled in the same manner as the original appointment for the unexpired term.
F. 
Vacancies. In the case of absence, inability to act or unwillingness to act because of self-interest on the part of a member of the Commission, his or her place shall be taken by an alternate member designated by the Chairman. Each member and each alternate shall continue in office after expiration of his or her term until his or her successor is duly appointed by the Selectmen and accepts such appointment in writing received by the Town Clerk.
A. 
The Commission shall have the duty of implementing this bylaw by receiving and reviewing application in connection with the altering or constructing of any building or structure within the Historic District as hereinafter provided in this bylaw.
B. 
The Commission shall have the power to adopt rules and regulations for the conducting of its business and shall cause all such rules and regulations to be filed with the Town Clerk immediately following their respective adoption.
C. 
The Commission shall have such other duties, powers and authority as may be delegated or assigned to it from time to time by a vote of a Town Meeting.
As used in the bylaw the following words and phrases shall include the meanings indicated below:
ALTERING
Includes the terms "rebuilding," "reconstructing," "restoring," "removing," and "demolishing," and the phrase "changing in exterior color."
BUILDING
A combination of materials forming a shelter for persons, animals, or property.
COMMISSION
The Cohasset Common Historic District Commission acting as such.
CONSTRUCTING
Includes the terms "building," "erecting," "installing," "enlarging," and "moving."
EXTERIOR ARCHITECTURAL FEATURE
Such portion of the exterior of a building or structure as is open to view from a public street, public way, or public park, including but not limited to the architectural style and general arrangement and setting thereof, the kind, color, and texture of exterior building materials, the color of paint or other materials applied to exterior surface, and the type and style of windows, doors, lights, signs, and other appurtenant fixtures.
STRUCTURE
A combination of materials other than a building, including but not limited to a sign, fence, wall, terrace, walk or driveway, tennis court, or swimming pool.
A. 
Certificates. Except as hereinafter provided in accordance with § 132-7 and/or § 132-8, no building or structure within the district shall be constructed or altered in any way that affects exterior architectural features unless the Commission shall first have issued a certificate of appropriateness, a certificate of nonapplicability, or a certificate of hardship with respect to such construction or alteration.
[Amended 4-30-2018 ATM by Art. 18]
B. 
Application. Any person who desires to obtain a certificate from the Commission shall file with the Commission an application for a certificate of appropriateness, a certificate of nonapplicability, or a certificate of hardship, as the case may be, in such form as the Commission may reasonably determine, together with such plans, elevations, specifications, material and other information, including in the case of demolition or removal a statement of the proposed condition and appearance of the property thereafter, as may be reasonably deemed necessary by the Commission to enable it to make a determination on the application.
C. 
Building and demolition permits. No building permit for construction of a building or structure or for alteration of an exterior architectural feature within the district and no demolition permit for demolition or removal of a building or structure within the district shall be issued by the Town or any department thereof until the certificate required by this section has been issued by the Commission.
D. 
Criteria. In passing upon matters before it, the Commission shall consider, among other things, the historic and architectural value and significance of the site, building or structure, the general design, arrangement, texture, material and color of the features involved, and the relation of such features to similar features of buildings and structures in the surrounding area. In the case of new construction or additions to existing buildings or structures, the Commission shall consider the appropriateness of the size and shape of the building or structure both in relation to the land area upon which the building or structure is situated and to buildings and structures in the vicinity, and the Commission may in appropriate cases impose dimensional and setback requirements in addition to those required by applicable bylaw. The Commission shall not consider interior arrangements or architectural features not subject to public view.
E. 
Limitation. The Commission shall not make any recommendation or requirement except for the purpose of preventing developments incongruous to the historic aspects or the architectural characteristics of the surroundings and of the district.
A. 
Initial exclusions. The authority of the Commission shall not extend to review any of the following categories of buildings, structures or exterior architectural features in the district:
(1) 
Temporary structures or signs, subject, however, to such conditions as to duration of use, location, lighting, removal and similar matters as the Commission may reasonably specify.
(2) 
Storm doors and windows, screens, window air conditioners, lighting fixtures and television antennae.
(3) 
Signs of not more than one square foot in area in connection with use of a residence for customary home occupation or for professional purposes, provided only one such sign is displayed in connection with each residence and if illuminated is illuminated only indirectly and by a constant white light.
(4) 
The reconstruction, substantially similar in exterior design, of a building, structure or exterior architectural feature damaged or destroyed by fire, storm or other disaster, provided that such reconstruction is begun within one year thereafter and carried forward with due diligence.
B. 
Additional exclusions. The Commission may determine from time to time after public hearing that certain additional categories of exterior architectural features, structures or signs may be constructed or altered (including colors) without review by the Commission without causing substantial derogation from the intent and purpose of this bylaw.
C. 
Certificate of nonapplicability. Upon request, the Commission shall issue a certificate of nonapplicability with respect to construction or alteration in any category then not subject to review by the Commission in accordance with the provisions of Subsections A and B.
D. 
Nonapplicability to ordinary maintenance and related action. Nothing in this bylaw shall be construed to prevent the ordinary maintenance, repair or replacement of any exterior architectural feature within the district which does not involve a significant change in design, material, color, or the outward appearance thereof, nor to prevent landscaping with plants, trees or shrubs, nor construed to prevent the meeting of requirements certified by a duly authorized public officer to be necessary for public safety because of an unsafe or dangerous condition, nor construed to prevent any construction or alteration under a permit duly issued prior to the effective date of this bylaw.
A. 
Meetings. Meetings of the Commission shall be held at the call of the Chairman or, in the absence of the Chairman, the Vice Chairman, and they shall be called at the request of two members of the Commission and in such other manner as the Commission may determine in its rules. Meetings shall also be posted at least 48 hours in advance.
B. 
Quorum and voting. A majority of the members of the Commission shall constitute a quorum, but the concurring vote of a majority of the members of the Commission (including alternate member or members if one or more regular members are absent or otherwise unable to act) shall be necessary to issue the certificates described above and to determine whether a public hearing is required as specified below.
C. 
Initial determinations. The Commission shall determine promptly, and in all events within 14 days after the filing of an application for a certificate of appropriateness, a certificate of nonapplicability or a certificate of hardship, as the case may be, whether the application involves any exterior architectural feature which is subject to approval by the Commission, and if the Commission determines that such application involves any such feature which is subject to approval by the Commission, the Commission shall thereafter hold a public hearing on such application unless such hearing is dispensed with as hereinafter provided.
D. 
Dispensing with public hearings. A public hearing on an application need not be held if:
(1) 
Such hearing is waived in writing by all persons entitled to notice thereof; or
(2) 
If the Commission determines that the exterior architectural feature involved or its category, as the case may be, is so insubstantial in its effect on the Historic District that it may be reviewed by the Commission without public hearing on the application; provided, however, that if the Commission dispenses with a public hearing on the application, notice of the application shall be given to the owners of all adjoining property and other property deemed by the Commission to be materially affected thereby as hereinafter provided in Subsection E, and 10 days shall elapse after the mailing of such notice before the Commission may act upon such application.
E. 
Public hearings. If the Commission decides to hold a public hearing on any application, it shall fix a reasonable time for such hearing and shall give public notice of the time, place and purposes thereof at least 14 days before said hearing in such manner as it may determine, and by mailing, postage prepaid, a copy of said notice to the applicant, to the owners of all adjoining property and other property deemed by the Commission to be materially affected thereby as they appear on the most recent real estate tax list of the Board of Assessors, to the Cohasset Planning Board, to any resident of or property owner in the Town of Cohasset filing written request for notice of hearings, such request to be renewed yearly in December with the Town Clerk, and to such other persons as the Commission shall believe should receive notice.
F. 
Certificates of appropriateness. If the Commission determines that the construction or alteration for which an application for a certificate of appropriateness has been filed will be appropriate for or compatible with the preservation or protection of the Historic District, the Commission shall cause a certificate of appropriateness to be issued to the applicant. In the case of a disapproval of an application for a certificate of appropriateness the Commission shall place upon its records the reasons for such determination and shall forthwith cause a notice of its determination, accompanied by a copy of the reasons therefor as set forth in the records of the Commission, to be issued to the applicant, with respect to appropriateness of design, arrangement, texture, material and similar features. Prior to the issuance of any disapproval the Commission may notify the applicant of its proposed action accompanied by recommendations of changes in the applicant's proposal which, if made, would make the application acceptable to the Commission. If within 14 days of the receipt of such notice the applicant files a written notification of his application in conformity with the recommended changes of the Commission, the Commission shall cause a certificate of appropriateness to be issued to the applicant.
G. 
Certificates of nonapplicability. In the case of determination by the Commission that an application for a certificate of appropriateness or for a certificate of nonapplicability does not involve any exterior architectural feature, or involves an exterior architectural feature which is not then subject to review by the Commission in accordance with the provisions of § 132-7, the Commission shall cause a certificate of nonapplicability to be issued to the applicant.
H. 
Certificate of hardship. If the construction or alteration for which an application for a certificate of appropriateness has been filed shall be determined to be inappropriate, or in the event of an application for a certificate of hardship, the Commission shall determine whether, owing to conditions especially affecting the building or structure involved, but not affecting the Historic District generally, failure to approve an application will involve a substantial hardship, financial or otherwise, to the applicant and whether such application may be approved without substantial detriment to the public welfare and without substantial derogation from the intent and purposes of this bylaw. If the Commission determines that owing to such conditions failure to approve an application will involve substantial hardship to the applicant and approval thereof may be made without substantial detriment or derogation, or, in the event of failure to make a determination on an application within the time specified in Subsection K, the Commission shall cause a certificate of hardship to be issued to the applicant.
I. 
Execution of certificate. Each certificate issued by the Commission shall be dated and signed by its Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary or such other person designated by the Commission to sign such certificates on its behalf.
J. 
Rules, regulations and permanent records. The Commission shall keep a permanent record of its resolutions, transactions and determinations and of the vote of each member participating therein, and may adopt and amend such rules and regulations not inconsistent with the provisions of this bylaw or MGL c. 40C and prescribe such forms as it shall deem desirable and necessary for the regulation of its affairs and the conduct of its business. The Commission shall also file a copy of any such rules and regulations with the Town Clerk.
K. 
Final determinations. Final determinations on applications shall be made by the Commission as soon as convenient after either its original receipt of each application (if no public hearing is to be held) or after said public hearing, but in all events within 60 days after the filing of the application, or within such further time as the applicant may allow in writing, and if the Commission shall fail to make a determination within such period of time, the Commission shall thereupon issue to the applicant a certificate of hardship.
L. 
Specific criteria. The Commission may after public hearing set forth in such manner as it may determine the various designs of certain appurtenances, such as solar energy equipment and wind-activated power-generating equipment, which will meet the requirements of the Historic District, and a roster of certain colors of paint and roofing materials which will meet the requirements of the Historic District, but no such determination shall limit the right of an applicant to present other designs or colors to the Commission for its approval.
Any applicant aggrieved by a determination of the Commission may, within 20 days after the filing of the notice of such determination with the Town Clerk, file a written request with the Commission for a review by a person or persons of competence and experience in such matters, designated by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, of which Cohasset is a member. The finding of the person or persons making such review shall be filed with the Town Clerk within 40 days after the request, and shall be binding on the applicant and the Commission, unless a further appeal is sought in the Superior Court as provided below.
A. 
Any applicant aggrieved by a determination of the Commission or by the finding of a person or persons making a review may, within 20 days after the filing of the notice of such determination or such finding with the Town Clerk, appeal to Norfolk Superior Court.
B. 
The remedy provided by this section shall be exclusive, subject only to the appellate rights of the parties.
C. 
Costs shall not be allowed against the Commission unless it shall appear to the Court that the Commission acted with gross negligence, in bad faith or with malice in the matter from which the appeal was taken, and costs shall not be allowed against the party appealing from such determination of the Commission unless it shall appear to the Court that the appellant acted in bad faith or with malice in making the appeal to the Court.
A. 
The Norfolk Superior Court has jurisdiction to enforce the provisions of this bylaw and the determinations, rulings and regulations issued pursuant thereto and may, upon the petition of the Board of Selectmen or of the Commission, restrain violations thereof, and, without limitation, such Court may order the removal of any building, structure or exterior architectural feature constructed in violation thereof, or the substantial restoration of any building, structure or exterior architectural feature altered or demolished in violation thereof, and may issue such other orders for relief as may be equitable.
B. 
Whoever violates any of the provisions of this bylaw shall be punished by a fine of not less than $10 nor more than $300. Each day during any portion of which a violation continues to exist shall constitute a separate offense.
[Amended 4-30-2018 ATM by Art. 18]
The provisions of this bylaw shall be deemed to be severable, and if any of its provisions shall be held to be invalid or unconstitutional by any court of competent jurisdiction, the remaining provisions shall continue in full force and effect.