Town of Bel Air, MD
Harford County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Board of Town Commissioners of the Town of Bel Air 3-11-1980 by Ord. No. 310 as Ch. 4, Art. 5 of the 1980 Code. Amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
Tax credit for historic preservation — See Ch. 50.
Building construction — See Ch. 145.

§ 246-1 Policy and objectives; assistance from other organizations.

A. 
The preservation of sites, structures and districts of historic, archaeological and architectural significance together with their appurtenances and environmental settings is a public policy of Bel Air. In accomplishing this policy the following objectives are sought to be attained:
(1) 
To preserve and enhance the quality of life.
(2) 
To safeguard the historical and cultural heritage of the Town of Bel Air by preserving the sites, structures or districts therein which reflect elements of its cultural, social, economic, political, archaeological or architectural history.
(3) 
To stabilize and improve property values of such sites, structures or districts.
(4) 
To foster civic beauty.
(5) 
To strengthen the local economy.
(6) 
To promote the use, preservation and appreciation of such historic sites, structures and districts for the education, welfare and pleasure of the residents of Bel Air.
B. 
The Board of Town Commissioners of the Town of Bel Air and the Historic Preservation Commission may seek and obtain the advice and assistance of the Maryland Historic Trust, the Harford County Historic Preservation Commission, the Historical Society of Harford County, Inc., and other organizations or individuals qualified by interest, training and experience in achieving the purposes of this chapter.

§ 246-2 Definitions.

For the purposes of this chapter the following words and phrases shall have the meanings respectively ascribed to them in this section:
ALTERATION
Any exterior change that would affect the historic, archaeological or architectural significance of a designated site or structure, any portion of which is visible or intended to be visible from a public way, including but not limited to construction, reconstruction, moving or demolition.
APPURTENANCES AND ENVIRONMENTAL SETTINGS
Include but are not limited to walkways and driveways (whether paved or not), trees, landscaping, pasture, cropland, waterways and rocks. When used in this chapter, the word "structure" shall also be determined to include the words "appurtenances and environmental settings."
CERTIFICATE OF APPROVAL
The official form indicating the Historic Preservation Commission's affirmative action on a request to alter, repair, modify, renovate, construct, demolish or otherwise alter all or a portion of a historically designated property or structure.
DEMOLITION
Includes any willful neglect in maintenance and repair of a structure, not including any appurtenances and environmental settings, that does not result from financial inability to maintain and repair the structure and that threatens to result in any substantial deterioration of the exterior features of the structure.
EXTERIOR FEATURES
The architectural style, design and general arrangement of the exterior of a historic structure which includes appurtenances and environmental settings, including the color, nature and texture of building material and the type and style of all windows, doors, light fixtures, signs or similar items found on or related to the exterior of a historic structure.
HISTORIC DISTRICT
A significant concentration, linkage or continuity of sites, structures or objects united historically, architecturally, archaeologically, culturally, or aesthetically by plan or physical development, the preservation of which is deemed to be for the educational, cultural, economic and general welfare of the inhabitants of Bel Air. A historic district shall include all property within its boundaries as defined and designated by resolution of the Board of Town Commissioners.
ROUTINE MAINTENANCE
Work that does not alter the exterior fabric or features of a site, structure, or appurtenances and environmental settings and has no material effect on the historic, archaeological or architectural significance of the historic site or structure.
SITE
The location of an event of historic significance or of a structure, whether standing or ruined, which possesses historic, archaeological or cultural significance.
STRUCTURE
A combination of material to form a construction that is stable, including but not limited to stadiums, reviewing stands, platforms, staging, observation towers, radio towers, buildings, water tanks and towers, trestles, bridges, piers, paving, bulkheads, wharves, sheds, coal bins, shelters, fences and display signs, visible or intended to be visible from a public way. The term "structure" shall be construed as if followed by the words "or part thereof."

§ 246-3 Historic Preservation Commission.

A. 
Creation. There is hereby created a commission to be known as the "Historic Preservation Commission."
B. 
Membership. The Historic Preservation Commission shall have a membership of not fewer than five nor more than seven persons. A majority of members of the Historic Preservation Commission shall be residents of Bel Air. Each member should possess a demonstrated interest, specific knowledge or professional or academic training in such fields as history, architecture, architectural history, planning, archaeology, anthropology, curation, conservation, landscape architecture, historic preservation, urban design, or related discipline. At least two members of the Historic Preservation Commission shall possess professional or academic training in one or more of the above-listed fields in accordance with the minimum professional requirements of the United States Department of the Interior for certifying local governments under 36 CFR 61.
C. 
Historic Preservation Commission membership qualification criteria. The requirement for Historic Preservation Commission membership under the category of demonstrated special interest may be satisfied either by formal training in one or more of the fields listed in Subsection B of this section or active membership in a preservation-related organization. The requirement for membership under the category of specific knowledge may be satisfied by formal postsecondary education, employment or practical experience in one or more of the above-listed fields. The requirement for Historic Preservation Commission membership under the category of professional or academic training may be satisfied by, at a minimum, two years' experience as a professional or a bachelor's degree in one or more of the above-listed fields.
D. 
Terms. The members shall be appointed by the Board of Town Commissioners for terms of three years, except that in making the initial appointments, some appointments shall be established for less than three years in order that as these initial terms expire all appointments shall be for three years and shall not expire at the same time. Members of the Historic Preservation Commission are eligible for reappointment.
E. 
Vacancy. Any vacancy in the membership of the Historic Preservation Commission caused by the expiration of a term, resignation, death, incapacity to discharge duties, removal for cause, or any other reason shall be filled for a new term, or for the remainder of the term for which there is a vacancy, as the case may be, in the same manner as provided herein for the appointment of the initial members of the Historic Preservation Commission. Any vacancy on the Historic Preservation Commission shall be filled by the appointing authority within 60 days. In the case of expiration of term, a member may continue to serve until the member's successor is appointed. Unexcused absence at three or more consecutive meetings shall be cause for removal, and the Board of Town Commissioners may remove a member for cause.
[Amended 11-17-2008 by Ord. No. 715-08]
F. 
Officers. The Historic Preservation Commission shall select from its membership a Chairperson and a Vice Chairperson. The Chairperson and Vice Chairperson shall serve a term of one year, shall perform such duties as the Historic Preservation Commission may prescribe and shall be eligible for reelection.
G. 
Compensation. The members of the Historic Preservation Commission shall serve without compensation but shall be reimbursed for necessary expenses incurred in the performance of their duties.
H. 
Meetings. The Historic Preservation Commission shall hold such regular meetings and hearings as necessary to discharge its duties, but not less than quarterly. The Historic Preservation Commission shall hold special meetings at the call of the Chairperson or of any three members of the Historic Preservation Commission.
I. 
Rules of procedure; quorum. The rules of procedure shall also be available for public inspection. Three members shall constitute a quorum.

§ 246-4 Designation of historic site, structure or district.

[Amended 11-16-2009 by Ord. No. 728-09]
The Historic Preservation Commission is authorized and empowered, after consultation with the Department of Planning and Community Development of the Town of Bel Air, and upon making full and proper study, to recommend any property, structure or area within the limits of the Town of Bel Air as a proposed historic site, structure or district and to determine the boundary lines of any such site, structure or district. The Historic Preservation Commission shall prepare a resolution setting forth its recommended designation of a site, structure or district as historic and shall cause such resolution to be introduced to the Board of Town Commissioners for appropriate action. No property, structure or area shall be deemed to be an historic site, structure or district unless and until it has been so designated by a resolution of the Board of Town Commissioners. The process for designation is as follows:
A. 
The criteria for designation as an historic site, structure or district is as follows:
(1) 
The Historic Preservation Commission shall conduct a public hearing to consider designation of a site, structure or district In determining its recommendation for such designation, the Commission shall consider the significance of this site, structure or area in local, regional or American history.
(2) 
In evaluating historical significance, the Commission shall determine whether the site, structure or area is associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad pattern of our history, or whether the site, structure or area is associated with the lives of persons significant in the Town's past.
(3) 
In considering architectural significance, the Commission shall determine whether the site, structure or area embodies distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of construction, or represents the work of a master or possesses high artistic values or represents a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction. The Commission shall also consider the integrity of design, setting, materials and workmanship of the site structure or area.
(4) 
In considering archeological significance, the Commission shall determine whether the site, structure or area has yielded or may be likely to yield information important in history or prehistory.
B. 
At least 10 days prior to a scheduled public hearing, the Historic Preservation Commission shall send written notice of the date, time and place of the hearing to the owner(s) of the proposed historic site, structure or area and to those agencies, organizations and citizens which the Commission determines may have an Interest In the proceedings. Further, the historic site, structure or area's property shall be posted at least 14 days prior to the scheduled public hearing with a sign identifying the historic site, structure or area and listing the date, time and place of the public hearing and giving instructions for obtaining further information. A notice of the time and place of the public hearing shall be posted in a newspaper of general circulation in the jurisdiction at least seven days prior to the public hearing. If an application for historic site designation has been filed, the Commission shall schedule a public hearing and make public its decision. Within 45 days after the filing of an application or, in the event the record is left open by the Commission, within 15 days after the close of the record, the Commission shall make Its decision public. No record shall be held open for longer than seven calendar days, without the consent of the applicant The time period for Commission action may be extended with the written consent of the applicant.
C. 
Upon completion of the public hearing process, the Historic Preservation Commission shall determine whether the site, structure or area should be designated as historic. If the decision is favorable, the Historic Preservation Commission shall submit its recommendation to the Bel Air Board of Town Commissioners including its specific reasons for recommendation and provide the Board of Town Commissioners with a proposed resolution for designation of a site, structure or district as historic. The Board of Town Commissioners shall consider approval or denial of the proposed resolution for designation of a site, structure or district based on the Historic Preservation Commission recommendation.

§ 246-5 Commission powers and duties.

In addition to the authority to recommend areas for historic preservation designation, the Historic Preservation Commission shall have the following powers and duties:
A. 
To acquire, develop and preserve historic or cultural properties, buildings, fixtures, furnishings, facilities, collections and appurtenances, with approval of the Board of Town Commissioners.
B. 
To acquire and hold real and personal property of historic or cultural significance by purchase, gift, devise or bequest and to preserve and administer such properties, with approval of the Board of Town Commissioners.
C. 
To accept gifts, grants, legacies, bequests and endowments for any purpose, with approval of the Board of Town Commissioners, as set forth in § 246-1 hereof.
D. 
To accept or otherwise acquire historic preservation easements on properties located in or adjacent to a locally designated historic district upon approval by the Board of Town Commissioners.
E. 
To direct studies, reports and surveys to identify historical, archaeological or architecturally significant sites, structures and districts that exemplify the cultural, social, economic, political or architectural history of the Town of Bel Air, State of Maryland or the nation.
F. 
To prescribe appropriate rules and regulations for the transaction of business.
G. 
To adopt rehabilitation and new construction design guidelines and criteria for construction, alteration, reconstruction, moving and/or demolition of structures and/or districts consistent with those generally recognized by the Maryland Historic Trust. These guidelines shall be used by the Historic Preservation Commission in review of applications.
H. 
To perform all the functions and duties as set forth in Article 66B, § 8.01 et seq. of the Maryland Annotated Code, as amended from time to time.
I. 
To undertake any action or activity necessary or appropriate to the implementation of its powers and duties and the implementation of the purpose of this chapter.

§ 246-6 Certificate of approval.

A. 
Application for certificate. Before the construction, alteration, repair, moving or demolition of a structure is undertaken on any designated site or structure within a designated district, if an exterior change is involved which would affect the historic, archaeological or architectural significance of a designated site within a designated district, any portion of which will be visible from public way, the person, firm, or corporation proposing to make such change shall file with the Historic Preservation Commission, through the Department of Planning and Community Development, an application for a certificate of approval to construct, alter, repair, move or demolish the site or structure. Every such application shall be referred to and considered by the Historic Preservation Commission and accepted or rejected by the Historic Preservation Commission. An application which is substantially identical to a rejected application may not be resubmitted to the Commission within one year after rejection. No permit for any such change may be granted until the Historic Preservation Commission has acted thereon as hereinafter provided.
B. 
Application review. In reviewing applications, the Historic Preservation Commission shall give consideration to:
(1) 
The historic, archaeological or architectural significance of the site or structure and its relationship to the historic, archaeological or architectural significance of the surrounding area;
(2) 
The relationship of the exterior architectural features of the structure to the remainder of the structure and to the surrounding area;
(3) 
The general compatibility of the proposed exterior design, scale, proportion, arrangement, texture and materials to the site or structure and to the surrounding area; and
(4) 
Any other factors, including aesthetic factors, which the Historic Preservation Commission deems to be pertinent.
C. 
The Historic Preservation Commission shall consider only exterior features of a structure and shall not consider any interior arrangements.
D. 
The Historic Preservation Commission shall not disapprove an application except with respect to the several factors specified in Subsection B above.
E. 
The Historic Preservation Commission shall be strict in its judgment of plans for those sites or structures determined by research to be of historic, archaeological or architectural significance. The Historic Preservation Commission shall be lenient in its judgment of plans for sites or structures of little historic, archaeological or architectural significance or for plans involving new construction, unless such plans would seriously impair the historic, archaeological or architectural significance of surrounding sites or structures. The Historic Preservation Commission is not required to limit new construction, alteration, or repairs to the architectural style of any one period.
F. 
If an application for a certificate of approval is submitted for construction, reconstruction or alteration affecting a site or the exterior of a structure or for the moving or demolition of a structure, the preservation of which the Historic Preservation Commission considers to be of unusual importance to Harford County or the Town of Bel Air, or unusual importance to the entire state or nation, the Historic Preservation Commission shall attempt with the owner of the structure to formulate an economically feasible plan for the preservation of the site or structure. Unless in these circumstances the Historic Preservation Commission is satisfied that the proposed construction, alteration, or reconstruction will not materially impair the historic, archaeological or architectural significance of the site or structure, the Historic Preservation Commission shall reject the application, filing a copy of its rejection with the Building Official.[1]
[1]
Editor's Note: Amended at time of adoption of Code (see Ch. 1, General Provisions, Art. III).
G. 
If an application for a certificate of approval is submitted for construction, reconstruction or alteration or for moving or demolition of a site or structure that the Historic Preservation Commission considers to be of unusual importance and no economically feasible plan can be formulated, the Historic Preservation Commission shall have 90 days from the time it concludes that no economically feasible plan can be formulated to negotiate with the owner and other parties in an effort to find a means of preserving the site or structure. Where the demolition of a site or structure is approved hereunder, the Historic Preservation Commission may require plans for construction of a replacement building in accordance with powers granted under this section in order to preserve the historic, architectural and property value of sites or structures of the surrounding area.
H. 
In the case of a structure considered to be valuable for its historic, archaeological or architectural significance, the Historic Preservation Commission may approve the proposed construction, reconstruction or alteration, moving or demolition despite the fact that the changes come within the provisions of Subsection F above if:
(1) 
The site or structure is a deterrent to a major improvement program which will be of substantial benefit to the Town of Bel Air;
(2) 
Retention of the site or structure would cause undue financial hardship to the owners; or
(3) 
The retention of the site or structure would not be in the best interests of a majority of persons in the community.
I. 
No construction, reconstruction or alteration of the exterior of any site or structure or the moving or demolition of a site or structure shall be permitted on a property after the Historic Preservation Commission has served notice on the affected property owner that the historic preservation designation process has begun, as defined in this section, without the approval of the Historic Preservation Commission. Application for such approval shall be made to the Historic Preservation Commission. The Historic Preservation Commission shall act on the proposed designation as hereinafter provided. The Historic Preservation Commission shall have 45 days from the date of such application for approval either to grant such approval or to introduce a designation resolution on the proposed historic site or district to the Board of Town Commissioners in accordance with § 246-4 of this chapter. A building permit shall be issued if, at the end of such 45 days, the Historic Preservation Commission has not either granted such approval or submitted said designation resolution. If a designation resolution is introduced to the Board of Town Commissioners during the forty-five-day period, no building permit shall be issued until the Board acts on said resolution. If the Board rejects the resolution, the building permit shall be issued immediately thereafter. If the Board passes the resolution, the applicant shall follow permit requirements for a historic district property as herein described.
J. 
The Historic Preservation Commission shall file with the Building Official a certificate of its approval, modification, or rejection of all applications and plans submitted to it for review. Work shall not be commenced on any such project until such a certificate of approval has been filed, and the Building Official shall not issue a building permit for such change or construction unless and until he has received such a certificate of approval. The failure of the Historic Preservation Commission to act upon an application within 45 days from the date the application was filed with the Historic Preservation Commission shall be deemed to constitute automatic approval of the proposed changes unless an extension of this forty-five-day period is agreed upon mutually by the applicant and the Historic Preservation Commission.[2]
[2]
Editor's Note: Amended at time of adoption of Code (see Ch. 1, General Provisions, Art. III).
K. 
Routine maintenance. Nothing in this chapter shall be taken or construed to prevent routine maintenance that does not alter the exterior fabric or features of a designated site, structure or district, customary farming operations or landscaping which will have no material effect on the historic, archaeological or architectural significance of a designated site, structure or district. Nothing in this chapter affects the right to complete any work covered by a permit or authorization issued prior to the effective date of this chapter.

§ 246-7 Demolition by neglect.

A. 
In the event of demolition by neglect, the Historic Preservation Commission may request the Department of Planning and Community Development to notify, in writing, the property owner of record, any person having a right, title or interest therein, and the occupant or other person responsible for the maintenance of the property of the deterioration. The notice shall specify the minimum items of repair or maintenance necessary to correct the deterioration or prevent further deterioration.
B. 
Prior to the issuance of a written notice, the Historic Preservation Commission may request the Department of Planning and Community Development to establish a record of demolition by neglect. Such a record may include dated materials such as photographs and written reports of the condition of the property so as to record or measure the deterioration.
C. 
The notice shall provide that corrective action shall commence within 30 days of the receipt of said notice and be completed within a reasonable time thereafter. The notice shall state that the owner of record of the property, or any person of record with any right, title, or interest therein, may, within 10 days after the receipt of the notice, request a hearing on the necessity of the items and conditions contained in the notice. In the event a public hearing is requested, it shall be held by the Historic Preservation Commission upon 30 days' written notice being mailed to all persons of record with any right, title or interest in the property and to all citizens and organizations which the Historic Preservation Commission determines may have an interest in the proceedings.
D. 
If, after the public hearing, the Historic Preservation Commission determines that the corrective actions remain necessary, the Historic Preservation Commission may request that the Department of Planning and Community Development issue a final notice detailing the corrective action which shall commence within 30 days from the date of the hearing decision and be completed within a reasonable time thereafter.
E. 
Upon failure, neglect, or refusal of the property owner or other responsible person, duly notified, to take the corrective action specified in the final notice within the time required, the Historic Preservation Commission may request that the Department of Planning and Community Development institute any of the remedies and penalties provided by law for such violations.

§ 246-8 Maryland Historical Trust report.

The Historic Preservation Commission may designate the Maryland Historical Trust to make an analysis of and report recommending the preservation of sites, structures, or districts of historic, archaeological, architectural, or cultural significance within the Town of Bel Air. The report may include proposed boundaries of sites, structures, or districts, as well as recommendations for the identification and designation of particular sites, structures, or districts to be preserved.

§ 246-9 Appeals.

[Amended 11-16-2009 by Ord. No. 728-09]
In the event that any party is aggrieved by a decision of the Historic Preservation Commission, the party has the right to appeal to the Circuit Court of Harford County as authorized by Section 4.08(f) of Article 66B of the Annotated Code of Maryland. An appeal to the Circuit Court shall be taken in accordance with Rules 7-201 through 7-211 of Title 7 Chapter 200 of Maryland Rules of Procedure. In the alternative, the party may appeal to the Bel Air Board of Appeals as authorized by Section 8.15 of Article 66B of the Annotated Code of Maryland. An appeal to the Board of Appeals shall be taken in accordance with Section 15.03.A of the Town of Bel Air Development Regulations. Appeals must be filed within 30 days from the date of the Historic Preservation Commission's decision.

§ 246-10 Commission meetings.

All meetings of the Historic Preservation Commission shall be open to the public. Any interested person or his representative is entitled to appear and be heard by the Historic Preservation Commission before it reaches a decision on any matter. The Historic Preservation Commission shall keep an open record of its resolutions, proceedings, and actions which shall be kept available for a period of three years for public inspection during reasonable business hours.

§ 246-11 Rules and regulations.

The Historic Preservation Commission shall have the authority to prescribe appropriate rules and regulations in order to carry out the purpose and intent of this chapter.

§ 246-12 Violations and penalties.

[Amended 11-17-2008 by Ord. No. 715-08]
A violation of this chapter shall be deemed a municipal infraction punishable as provided in Chapter 1, Article II of this Code. Each and every day that the violation continues shall be deemed a separate offense. Violations and fees shall be cumulative.