Wisconsin Historical Society

Guide or Instruction

Demolition Delays

Chapter 9: Preservation Commission Design Review, Page 6 of 6

Demolition Delays | HPC Training | Wisconsin Historical Society

Demolition is forever. Once a building is gone, it takes away another piece of a community's character. Demolition of a historic building that has most of its original design and features should only be an action of last resort.

Delaying the Demolition Process

For properties in a historic district, the commission can postpone demolition for a period of time while it attempts to find a buyer or funding for rehabilitation. The amount of time demolition can be delayed should be stated in the local preservation ordinance. A common period is 180 days.

Conditions for Removing Buildings

Demolition of designated historic buildings should be avoided. However, certain conditions may require a building to be demolished.

The commission may consider allowing for the demolition of a structure if:

  1. Public welfare requires the removal of the building
  2. The building has lost its architectural and historical value and its removal will improve the appearance of the neighborhood
  3. Denial of the effort will result in a substantial hardship on the applicant as determined in the preservation ordinance

Requests for Demolition

When requesting demolition of a structure, the applicant should bring:

  • Ample photographs of the building proposed for demolition and its surrounding setting
  • A statement describing the reasons for demolition
  • A proposal of how the applicant plans to use the site after demolition

Sample Demolition Delay Ordinance

While developing a demolition delay provision in the preservation ordinance, the commission should consider adding this representative language:

SUBSECTION A. No permit for the demolition of any building, structures, or part thereof (500 total square feet in size or larger, and at least 50 years old) shall be issued until the following requirements are satisfied:

1. The filing of an application for a demolition permit with the building department upon a form provided by the Chief Building Inspector, which form shall contain:

a. Name and address of structure to be demolished;

b. Location and identification of property to be demolished;

c. Age and type of structure to be demolished;

d. Square footage of structure to be demolished;

e. Name and address of owner;

f. Name and address of firm undertaking the demolition;

g. Reason for demolition; and

h. Date on which demolition is to begin.

2. Names and addresses of all property owners abutting the property on which the building, structure(s), or part thereof to be demolished is located, according to an attached copy of a current town Assessor's map.

3. Publication by the Chief Building Inspector of notice of the demolition permit application in a newspaper having substantial circulation in the municipality. The notice shall be published within seven (7) days following the filing of the demolition permit application.

4. The applicant shall mail such notice, by certified mail, with postal receipts provided to the Building Inspector for incorporation into the applicant's file, within seven (7) days of filing, to the Historic District Commission.

5. The applicant shall provide notification by mail, within seven (7) days following he filing of the demolition permit application, of the owners of all property abutting the property on which the building(s) to be demolished is located. The identity of the owners entitled to notification under this provision shall be those abutting property owners as shown on the then current Assessor's map.

6. The Chief Building Inspector shall post in a conspicuous location on the property thirty (30) consecutive days a sign at least 36" x 48" visible from the nearest public street or other access way adjoining the property. Such sign shall include a copy of the legal notice and shall contain the word "DEMOLITION" in letters no less than 3 inches in height. If there is more than one structure proposed for demolition, one sign shall be posted for each structure. All signs required hereunder shall remain posted on the property, if the permit is issued, until the completion of all demolition activities authorized by the permit.

7. The applicant shall pay a minimum fee of two hundred and fifty ($250.00) dollars, or one percent (1%) of assessed value, whichever is greater, for said demolition permit.

8. There shall be a waiting period of ninety (90) days following the filing of the application for the demolition permit. This waiting period may be waived upon written consent signed by the Chairman of the Historic District Commission.

SUBSECTION B. The provisions of Subsection A hereinabove shall not apply to orders issued by the Director of Health and/or the Chief Building Inspector for emergency application because of a threat to public health and safety.

SUBSECTION C. This ordinance is intended to supplement and not limit any requirements now or hereafter imposed by State General Statutes and Regulations adopted thereunder, on any applicant for or recipient of a demolition permit, or any authority now or hereafter granted to the Chief Building Inspector by the State Building Code including, but not limited to, his authority as it applies to unsafe structure, fire damaged structures, or deteriorated structures and the demolition and/or removal of same.

SUBSECTION D. Any demolition permit shall be valid for a period of six (6) months from date of issuance.

SUBSECTION E. Demolition of a structure without a permit shall subject the violator to all applicable penalties under the law, including a fine of the greater of one thousand ($1,000.00) dollars or the assessed value of the property demolished for each violation.