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Demolition Delay Ordinance Could Be Coming to Stafford

Stafford, CT – July 3, 2024

Several members of Stafford’s Historic Advisory Commission were at the Board of Selectmen’s meeting to discuss bringing a demolition delay ordinance to town. “Stafford is losing a lot of its history,” said Leonard “Butch” Clark, chairman of the Historic Advisory Commission. He asserted that Stafford loses about one historic building a year.  

With this in mind, the advisory commission presented the town with a demolition delay ordinance. A cover letter presented to the selectmen calls it “an eleventh-hour attempt to save a historic building that is imminently at risk.” According to the same document, in 1992, Stafford had 599 buildings that were considered historically and/or architecturally significant by the Connecticut State Historic Preservation Office. Since then, 34 of those buildings have been demolished and presented images of one of the most notable examples, the 1816 building that has been alternately known as the Parley-Converse House and the Maple Grove Inn but was demolished to make way for a Dollar General.

The advisory commissions said that over 100 of the 169 towns in Connecticut already have these types of ordinances. You can see a map of all the towns with these ordinances here and explore structures currently threatened by demolition. There is also an example of a sample demolition delay ordinance recommended by the state. 

The historic advisory committee says that these ordinances do not, ultimately, prevent property owners from demolishing buildings; they buy time for the rest of the community to find another alternative – like moving the building or finding someone who wants to salvage its parts. This idea raised a question from Selectman Rick Hartenstein, who wondered what obligation the property owners would have to allow someone on their property to survey it. The answer is none. However, it stands to reason that if a property owner can make money by selling historic elements or even the whole building, they would have the incentive to do so.  

Another possible issue with the efficacy of this ordinance is that it only applies when a demolition permit is applied for. If a property owner applies for a building permit and guts the house or effectively demolishes it, there is not much recourse. 

Selectman Kurt Vail, who said he recently had a conversation with his daughter about how many more historic buildings were in town when he was kid, asked how the ordinance would work. A building over 75 years old of historic significance could be subject to delay, which could halt demolition for anywhere from 30 days to 6 months. The matter would be referred to the Board of Selectman. They also said that a website maintained by the State lists buildings with historic significance, making it easy for the building official to check if it's on the list. If the building is so far gone that it’s dangerous, the building official can recommend it be demolished without delay. 

Vail felt there should be some mechanism for buyers to be made aware that a property may be subject to this ordinance. This likely falls on the selling agent to disclose. 

At the end of the discussion, First Selectman Bill Morrison said he would get an estimate from the town’s lawyer and possibly move the ordinance to him for review. 


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