90-Day Deadline Set to Raze Former Armory
Alderman looks to pressure state Historical Commission with vote.
The former armory on Main Street may be demolished within the next 90 days, according to a City Council vote Tuesday.
Recent negotiations with building owner Joseph D’Ovidio over ongoing issues broke down, Ward 2 Ald. Richard Gately told the council. Gately had been working “diligently,” he said, with the owner.
The building’s condition has been an issue for a number of years. The aldermen deemed it a public nuisance in October of 2010.
“It’s been a mess for a decade and a half,” said Ald.-at-Large Richard Haggerty.
The Woburn Armory, LLC, bought the property in 2004.
The Massachusetts Historical Commission holds a covenant on the property. The commission must approve changes to the building’s “architecturally or historically significant exterior or interior features,” in writing.
The commission approved a proposal in 2006 to demolish the rear shed portion of the armory. The City Council at that time denied a proposal for the property.
Ald. Gately made the motion to demolish the building to force the hand, he said, of the state Historical Commission. The commission “abandoned this building,” he said.
Questions to the commission about what it will do about the demolition order were unanswered by the end of business yesterday.
Several aldermen said they were concerned that ordering the building to be demolished gives the property owner a clean lot to work with.
But taking down the building does not resolve the property’s zoning—commercial in the front and residential in the rear. This council will not muster six votes to rezone the property, Gately said. “That’s not going to happen.”
Ward 7 Ald. Raymond Drapeau said he thinks the owner’s inaction on the property is part of his strategy to “wait us out.”
If the city takes the building down, Ward 1 Ald. Rosa DiTucci said the owner told her that he would sue the city. He “let the property run into the ground," she said.
Gately said he expects injunctions to be filed by the state historical commission and possibly by the property owner over the council’s action.
The City Council also voted to notify state Historical Commission of its action and the state Attorney General’s office, as well, because some aldermen are unsatisfied with the state commission’s involvement with this property.
The armory is an important part of Woburn history, local Historical Commission member Sue Ellen Holland told the aldermen during Tuesday’s hearing on that property. If the building owner is not willing to work with you, she told the council, don’t work with him. “Don’t help him out.”
Abutter Mark Sanborn attended the hearing “to protect my property.” He can’t see how the council would let the armory owner benefit, he said.
The city’s demolition delay bylaw could give the building a reprieve of up to one year. But if the building is a danger, it could come down sooner, according to Ward 4 Ald. Michael Anderson.
The vote on the demolition motion: 7-1. Ald. Anderson voted no. Ald. Michael Raymond was absent.
Procedurally, this is what happens next, City Council Clerk William Campbell explained to Patch. Within 10 days, Mayor Scott Galvin can approve, veto or take no action on the order. A veto could take the issue back to the City Council. No action would mean the vote would take effect after 10 days.
Then the property owner would be served notice of the order. If he does not respond within three business days, the city could take the building down, for safety reasons, and place a lien on the property to cover the cost of the demolition.
The local Historical Commission can impose a demolition delay of up to one year of a historically significant building. The state Historical Commission has deemed the Woburn armory building “historically significant.”