Proposal headed back to town council

MERRIMACK – No residents showed up, no recommendation was made and now a proposed ordinance that would delay demolition of historically significant buildings is heading back to the town council.

The planning board met Tuesday to discuss and hold a public hearing on the proposal, which was an effort to encourage alternatives. Members ended up coming to a 2-2-2 vote, meaning they will not issue a recommendation to the town council, which takes up the ordinance next.

The idea was first raised following the destruction of the former Madden’s Restaurant on Daniel Webster Highway in September 2007. The building was taken down after developers said it wouldn’t structurally or financially support a new project there.

At the time, town councilors asked the planning department to investigate an ordinance that would “hit the pause button” on the razing of historical buildings.

The proposed ordinance would work like this:

Town officials would determine if a review must take place when an application for a demolition is received.

If a property is identified on the town’s historic properties map, a review period not to exceed 49 days would begin and a public hearing in front of the town’s heritage commission would be set.

The process also would involve discussion between the developer and the commission as to whether alternatives to demolition are possible.

In the end, said community development Director Walter Warren, the ordinance doesn’t development Director Walter Warren, the ordinance doesn’t have any legal teeth, and the developer would still make the decision about whether to move forward with demolition.

The purpose, he said, is “not to usurp private property rights that property owners have and not embroil the town in legal entanglements. It’s a cooling-off period so that people interested in historic properties can work with owners to see if there are viable options to demolition.”

Board members were mixed in their own reviews of the proposal.

“I’ll just say I think this is adding another level of bureaucracy to what we have in town that we don’t need,” Stanley Bonislawski said.

Tom Koenig disagreed, saying the ordinance “raises a flag” to developers about properties and the people who are concerned about it.

“I don’t see the ordinance as presented being overly burdensome to the developer,” he said.

Koenig and Alistair Millns supported the measure; Bonislawski and John Segedy did not.

Chairman Nelson Disco and Pete Gagnon abstained because their properties are considered historically significant, according to the map.

The town council is expected to take up the issue in the near future.