Composition: Established in 1985, the Somerville Historic Preservation Commission (SHPC) enforces the City's Historic District Ordinance as well as its Demolition Review Ordinance. The Commission has seven regular members and seven alternates. All fourteen (14) members are volunteers from various backgrounds. By Ordinance the regular members must be Somerville residents and include an architectural historian, an architect, a licensed real estate broker, a city planner, a lawyer, and two resident members with a demonstrated commitment to historic preservation. The alternates include a resident of a historic district, a landscape architect, a licensed general contractor or person in the building trades, and a person with background in any of the above-mentioned categories, and five of the alternates must be Somerville residents. All members of the SHPC are appointed by the Mayor with approval by the Board of Aldermen. Members typically serve for three-year terms and can be re-appointed.
Schedule:The SHPC meets regularly, usually on the third Tuesday of the month and typically reviews about fifty (50) cases a year related to exterior alterations. Special meetings occur throughout the year to handle subcommittee affairs and oversee grant projects and historical events.
Agendas and Minutes
View Public Meeting Agendas and Minutes.
Purpose: The SHPC reviews any alterations or repairs to properties in a Local Historic District (LHD) that are visible from a public way and that would result in an irreversible change in the design, materials, or outward appearance of the structure. It also reviews any changes in the general arrangement of the building's features or its architectural details, such as the arrangement of windows or doors. The SHPC does not review cases that involve routine maintenance or replacement of any part of the property using the same design and materials as the original building. The SHPC also does not review cases in which buildings have been destroyed by fire or other disaster, as long as the reconstruction occurs within a year and is substantially similar to the original building in exterior design, type of use, and size. The SHPC offers pro bono professional advice, practical information, and pertinent references about materials and techniques used in historic preservation and restoration, and provides technical assistance throughout design and construction. SHPC has developed specific guidelines to aid historic property owners in making appropriate and sensitive decisions about alterations, additions, and repairs to their properties.
The SHPC also administers the City's Demolition Review Ordinance adopted in 2003. This ordinance affects properties built fifty (50) or more years ago and that are not already designated as part of a Local Historic District.
Other Activities: The Commission sponsors a Preservation Awards Program that culminates each year in a ceremony at the Somerville Museum to honor owners who have made an outstanding effort to preserve, maintain, or restore their properties. Typically six "Preservation Awards" are given to designated historic properties and six "Director Awards" are presented for work on older, but not designated properties. To apply for this award, see the Nomination for Preservation Awards under Forms and Applications.
The SHPC periodically sponsors special programs on City Cable television and articles in local newspapers related to important historic issues, activities, and figures.