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    Friday, August 12, 2022

    Stonington approves demolition ordinance, smoking ban

    Stonington — Residents at Monday's town meeting overwhelmingly approved a demolition ordinance that calls for a 90-day demolition delay as well as a ban on smoking of any kind, including cannabis products, on town recreational properties.

    In addition, they approved an ordinance that specifies town parks, playgrounds and recreational areas will be open from sunrise to sunset each day and that no person shall enter these areas when they are closed. Anyone who violates the ordinance would be subject to a warning and/or $49 fine for each separate offense. The defined closure times and fines are in part designed to help police address loitering at Donahue Park in downtown Pawcatuck.

    The town had a written policy for a demolition waiting period but it was not enshrined by a town ordinance and in 2018 it was eliminated as neighbors tried to stop two historic homes on Haley Street from being taken down to create a parking lot. Some residents had asked First Selectwoman Danielle Chesebrough when she took office in 2019 to consider enacting a demolition ordinance.

    The ordinance passed Monday night by a vote of 49-2. 

    The ordinance "seeks to further the preservation, rehabilitation and reuse of architecturally significant buildings and structures by providing adequate time for all parties to consider and put forth appropriate development alternatives to demolition."

    These alternatives could include attempts to find a buyer who would preserve or relocate the historic building or structure or present an alternative "to the last resort of demolition." When demolition is unavoidable, the ordinance would provide time to photograph and document the structure.

    In order to be subject to the delay, a structure would have to be larger than 500 square feet and at least 70 years old as of June 2022, or be listed as a contributing structure in a national or state historic district or on the national or state register of historic places. The building official would make the final determination as to whether a structure is considered a historic structure.

    According to the ordinance, no person shall demolish any section of or an entire building or structure without first obtaining a demolition permit from the building official.

    Copies of the notice of demolition also must be sent to owners of all abutting properties in the town within 100 feet of the building to be demolished, the Stonington Historical Society, Mystic River Historical Society, the town Department of Planning and the First Selectman's Office. Notice also will be sent to any entity that registers with the Building Official's office to be placed on the Demolition Delay Public Notice Registry.

     When a demolition permit is submitted for a historical structure, the applicant must publish a legal notice in the newspaper of the "Notice of Intent to Demolish" containing information about the property. It will include a statement that unless a written objection is filed with the building official within 14 calendar days following publication, the permit may be issued after the 14 days expire.

    Any individual, firm, corporation, organization or other entity would be able to file an objection to the demolition application. If a written or emailed objection is filed with the building official within 14 days following publication of the legal notice, the building official must delay issuing a demolition permit for 90 days from the receipt of the application.

    If the building official determines that the proposed demolition is subject to the delay, he will inform the owner it will be 90 days before the permit is granted. During this 90 days, the applicant cannot take any action toward demolition, including preliminary work such as site remediation and asbestos abatement.

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