Local historic districts are the strongest form of protection that can be given to historic properties, but it also has significant implications. Our study of the feasibility of a local historic district will include a comprehensive assessment of Swampscott's historic resources, considerations of the threats that those resources are currently facing or may face in the future, and a careful examination of appropriate strategies to address those threats.
It should be noted that a local historic district is not the sole mechanism for accomplishing historic preservation and protecting community character. Other strategies include changes to local zoning and development policy, the implementation of facade or other preservation incentive programs, and demolition delay bylaws. These and others can effectively contribute to preservation goals. In time, a local historic district could be just one part of a comprehensive strategy to protect Swampscott's historic resources.
Town Meeting approved the creation of the Swampscott Historic District Bylaw as part of the General Bylaws at the May 2014 Annual Town Meeting. That bylaw is administered by the Historic District Commission.
The Historic District Commission established the Historic District Study Committee at its January 4, 2016, hearing in order to evaluate the potential for additional district areas.
The committee is responsible for conducting an investigation and report on the desirability of establishing a local historic district, presenting our findings and recommendations, and conducting a public hearing on the proposal prior to its consideration by Town Meeting. Swampscott's Historic District Study Committee includes members appointed by the Historic District Commission.
Once the proposed areas have been selected, the commitee will begin to investigate the historical and/or architectural significance of the buildings and structures located within the site. To aid in this endeavor, the site will be outlined on a base map that will include the property lines in the area to help clearly define the boundaries of the district. Only properties located within this boundary would be subject to the district's regulations. Following this step, the committee will compile a list of all the street addresses and owners of the properties in the boundary. The boundaries may end up being shifted prior to Town Meeting vote as the committee sees fit based upon its research and requests from citizens following public outreach.
Due to its strong regulatory abilities, a local historic district is something that must be agreed upon by at least two-thirds majority of Town Meeting, and therefore, the most important job of the study committee is and will be to inform the residents of Swampscott of the benefits of the district and the potential problems that might come in years ahead without one. The committee is currently working on these efforts and will be reaching out to the public throughout its research.
Frequently Asked Questions
The Massachusetts Historical Commission has put together a number of frequently asked questions relating to local historic districts.