Holyoke council fails to extend length of demolition delay for historic buildings

  • Holyoke City Hall, as seen from Holyoke Heritage State Park, on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 8/3/2022 4:33:39 PM

HOLYOKE — The City Council failed Tuesday to extend the amount of time the Holyoke Historical Commission can delay the demolition of properties it hopes to preserve, though councilors will get a second chance to make the change.

During their full meeting Tuesday evening, eight city councilors voted in favor of updating the city’s “demolition delay ordinance” to boost the delay the Historical Commission can implement from six months to nine. However, nine councilors must vote in favor of an ordinance change for it to pass. After the motion failed, councilors voted to reconsider their actions and then tabled the motion, meaning it will be back on the agenda at the City Council’s next full meeting.

The recommended changes came from the Historical Commission, which advocated for increasing the demolition delay to as long as 12 months, as well as lowering the age of properties eligible for delay from 100 years to 75 years. The commission also hoped to change the name of the rule to the “preservation of historic buildings ordinance.”

Over several meetings, members of the City Council’s Ordinance Committee agreed on a compromise that would increase the demolition delay to nine months while also placing a three-month limit on the amount of time the Historical Commission could keep open a hearing on a possible delay. The compromise changes would change the name of the ordinance but would not lower the eligibility age for buildings to be considered for a demolition delay.

“I think this is a really good compromise,” At-large Councilor Kevin Jourdain said at Tuesday’s meeting.

However, At-large Councilor Joseph McGiverin spoke out against the changes during the meeting.

“It’s anti-business,” he said of the proposal to increase the demolition delay.

Ultimately, three councilors voted against the changes: McGiverin and fellow At-large Councilor Tessa Murphy-Romboletti, as well as Council President Todd McGee, who represents Ward 7.

Two councilors were absent Tuesday evening. Ward 1 Councilor Jenny Rivera was unable to attend the meeting because of a scheduling conflict with work, according to McGee. And Ward 2 Councilor Will Puello remains incarcerated in Rhode Island on several felony charges.

Because councilors voted to reconsider their actions after the vote failed, they will have another chance to debate and vote on the proposed changes. The changes were tabled, meaning they can be considered at the body’s next full meeting.

City councilors did send a recommendation to Mayor Joshua Garcia that a member of the Historical Commission sit on the city’s Property Preservation Group, which works to deal with problem properties as they pop up across Holyoke.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.
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