Following is the email sent out to update Bolton residents on the status of 715 Main Street:
As part of its mission to preserve the character and resources of our town, the Bolton Conservation Trust bought the abandoned Smith garage and two neighboring houses, a contaminated site, in 2012. Recently, the Trust recruited a steering committee, co-chaired by Bob Roemer and myself, to lead the effort to transform the eight-acre site into the Bolton Town Common that will benefit residents of all ages.
This transformation required us to look closely at the future of the buildings located on the site of the future Town Common. Because of the age of the two houses and garage located at 715 and 723 Main Street, we filed demolition permit applications with the Bolton Historical Commission in 2012. The Historical Commission deemed the house and garage at 723 Main Street as not historically significant, and therefore, saw no issue with demolition. However, they found the house at 715 Main Street to be historically significant, which prompted a six-month demolition delay that expires October 4, 2014, Our committee – along with members of the Trust, the Historical Commission, and interested individuals in our community – explored many options for preserving 715 Main Street, including moving it to a different location.
Keeping in mind that the six-acre lot at 715 Main Street provides more than half of the land that will comprise the Common, we arrived at a potential approach whereby the Trust would sell approximately one-quarter acre below market value of that lot to a party willing to preserve and restore the house. The potential sale, of course, would be contingent on the Trust’s ability to subdivide the six-acre lot to accommodate one-quarter acre for the house. Bolton Resident Pat Carroll came forward on July 16th at our public forum with a proposition that would work within these parameters. We greeted this proposal with enthusiasm and immediately brought it to Town and State Officials in hopes that preservation was possible.
After several discussions with appropriate Town officials and opinion from outside legal counsel, we learned that creating a new lot as outlined above to preserve the house at 715 Main Street is not permitted under the state zoning act and Massachusetts case law. This case law states that a non-conforming lot cannot be modified in ways that make it more non-conforming. The house currently is on a 6.375 acre lot which has 90 feet of frontage on Main Street and has a setback of 17 feet from Main Street. Per Bolton zoning regulations, the lot does not meet the requirement of minimum frontage (200 ft.) and setback from the street (50 ft.). As a result, it is a non-conforming lot. Therefore, even if Bolton town officials supported the modifications to the lot at 715 Main Street, the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) would not have the authority to make the lot more non-conforming. The only legal zoning alternative would be to create a new town road on the west side of 715 Main Street to increase frontage to 200 ft. and create an 80,000 sq. ft. lot for the house. Even that alternative would require front and side yard variances from the ZBA and the environmental liability would transfer to the new owner along with the legal lot and house. The creation of such a lot would inhibit the use of the prime land needed to develop the Town Common; moreover, it seems unlikely that a new owner would want to assume the environmental liability.
The Conservation Trust reviewed this conforming lot sale alternative with Mass Development, the state’s finance and development authority, which had granted the loan to the Trust. Mass Development said that partial sale of property would likely trigger the requirement for reappraisal of all of the land and repayment of the loan to the extent of the fair market value of the land sold. The Trust has concluded that this risky and uncertain approach is simply not feasible.
At this juncture, we believe the only path to preservation of 715 Main Street is the relocation of the building to a new lot elsewhere in town. There would need to be a contract for relocation of the house by the end of the demolition delay period on October 4, 2014 to enable the remediation process of the property to begin. It is critical that the remediation start this fall, as experts tell us that further delay could force us to postpone the process for another 6-8 months (due to wet conditions brought on by the winter season), which would significantly impede our overall effort to build our Town Common with our current resources. We welcome proposals related to the relocation of the building at 715 Main Street and will entertain any funded and timely solutions.
We genuinely appreciate the ideas and proposals brought forward by residents of the Bolton community. We are excited to move forward with our next phase of the Bolton Town Common Initiative. In the coming weeks, you will be receiving a survey, which will be sent to all town residents, to share your vision for what the Common can be. As always, we are grateful for your participation in this place-making initiative.