Connecticut Trust For Historic Preservation

Testimony on Raised Bills SB 330 - An Act Concerning Demolition Permits

PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE

Public Hearing March 4, 2016

Testimony on Raised Bills SB 330 - An Act Concerning Demolition Permits

Senator Osten, Representative Miller & Members of the Planning and Development Committee:

The Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation supports this proposed enhancement to enabling statute (C.G.S. 29-406, Chapter 549, Title 29) that allows Connecticut municipalities to enact ordinances that impose a waiting period before issuing a demolition permit for buildings more than fifty years old. The proposed amendment addresses an unfortunate trend of interior demolition permitted in the name of site remediation and asbestos abatement that renders a structure too damaged or compromised to re-market, transfer, or sell to a party intent on rehabilitation and reinvestment rather than demolition. This proposed change would allow such remediation to proceed only upon issuance of a demolition permit at the end of the authorized delay period.

Since the General Assembly’s passage of the original demolition delay enabling legislation in 1983, (a list of municipalities that have since adopted demolition delays follows below), this enabling statute has given new opportunity to numerous historic structures across Connecticut. The proposed change further strengthens the opportunities for reuse and reinvestment in Connecticut’s historic properties.

The Connecticut Trust would like to recommend additional modifications to this statute to further address these goals.

Section (a): It should be a condition of application for a demolition permit that 1) the reason for demolition be cited and 2) there be an indication of complete or partial demolition, with a definition of the part of the structure to be demolished.

These changes will assist municipal officials and the general public to more immediately understand and assess the scope of the proposed demolition and the structural issues prompting such action.

Section (b): Applications for a demolition permit under this statute should have a statewide public notice requirement. This should take the form of notification to a central source, such as the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).

While local municipalities have adopted public notice requirements that are appropriate to their respective communities, efforts to undertake a “save” for these structures often requires resources and expertise from outside the municipality itself. A centralized database of demolition permit applications informed by a statewide public notice requirement would more efficiently direct appropriate expertise from public agencies such as SHPO as well as private organizations such as the Connecticut Trust.

Additionally, such a database would allow this legislature and state agencies to understand the annual volume of such requests and further inform statutory, programmatic and funding responses to this continued threat to Connecticut’s built heritage.

Section (c): This section should additionally prohibit the requirement imposed by some municipalities that public utilities intentionally be terminated prior to accepting an application for demolition.

Such requirements undercut the intention of a demolition delay, typically accelerate building deterioration, and further handicaps opportunities for building reuse and reinvestment.

Thank you for considering this testimony. We further support the testimony offered on behalf of Connecticut Preservation Action, our partner in advancing historic preservation as an economic and community revitalization tool in Connecticut.

Daniel Mackay

Executive Director

Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation