"Sunset on the English Oak" - photo by Allan Bezanson
A HISTORIC PRESERVATION RESTRICTION (PR) is a legal agreement designed to protect significant building and landscape features of historic properties, defined in MA General Laws 184 section 31.
Historic Preservation Restrictions guarantee that the intrinsic value of historic properties will be preserved by present and future owners, and protect a significant historic property or site for a term of years or in perpetuity.
The PR restricts future changes in appearance or use of the property, and defines scope and intent of preservation restrictions.
A legal agreement (PR) is currently being negotiated between the owner of the Burnett House, Jon Delli Priscoli and the Town of Southborough. The Southborough Historical Commission (SHC) would manage, administer and enforce the Restriction as an agent of the Town of Southborough, a government body authorized to accept preservation restrictions.
The Burnett House and Garfield Estate is qualified for the protections of a perpetual preservation restriction because the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC) staff have found it to be eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, the nation's official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation. All Preservation Restrictions must be approved by the MHC, whose staff are currently reviewing the draft PR agreement between with the owner of the Burnett House and the Town.
The proposed PR will:
- Define alterations to the exterior architectural features of the Main House, Chapel, Summer Cottage and Carriage House.
- The protected land will not be subdivided, and should be preserved according to 19th century landscape guidelines.
- The character-defining historic features of the property, buildings, structures and their setting must be protected.
- The owner must properly maintain, administer and repair the property and its significant features.
- Major alterations require approval from SHC on behalf of the Town, but minor, routine maintenance and repair do not.
The terms of the Restriction must meet The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, with Guidelines for Preserving, Rehabilitation, Restoring and Reconstructing Historic Buildings, which will be enforced by SHC. Additionally, the owner has received a zoning variance to adapt the property to a Bed & Breakfast.
CPA Funds at Work
A PR can be purchased by a municipality using CPA funds which provides for their acquisition, recording at Registry of Deeds, release, and assignment. The Historical Commission has filed an Application for CPA funding to cover the proposed PR. CPA funds are an appropriate use for historic preservation.
The Southborough Community Preservation Committee has purchased an appraisal by John Avery, a highly experienced appraiser of preservation restrictions on historic properties. The appraisal estimates the loss in value of the property with the encumbrance of a PR. The PR would compensate the owner for the loss of development rights, as well as a smaller amount for restoration of historic exterior features.
The Preservation of the Burnett House and Garfield House will preserve one of Southborough’s most important historic properties. Keeping this house intact as a business concern (Bed & Breakfast) will generate property tax revenue for the Town, and reduce the burden on municipal services.
The final step is to incorporate Massachusetts Historical Commission changes into the Preservation Restriction for approval and sign-off.
So if all goes well and MHC signs off on the PR, residents should have an opportunity to vote at Town Meeting (April 11-12) on Warrant Articles 13 and 14 (click here to view the annual warrant) - whether or not to acquire a PR on 84 Main Street using Community Preservation funding.
Prepared by Kate Matison, Rebecca Deans-Rowe & Maria Romero Vagnini