Enforcement Process/Report a Violation
Unfortunately, work will sometimes be undertaken in a district without prior review and approval of the Board. It is important to note that consulting the staff is the best way to determine whether the work you are contemplating must be reviewed by the Board.
The Board requires two things of tenants and property owners in its review districts. First, a permit must be obtained from the Board before starting work. Second, properties must be kept in good repair. Violations occur when work is done without a permit, when work does not comply with a permit and conditions of approval, or when properties are not properly maintained.
Both property owner and tenant are responsible for a violation. If the tenant is the offending party, the Board may seek, where possible, to bring the action against that individual. As with most laws, however, ultimately the property owner is responsible for ensuring that his/her property complies with all Board regulations, as well as with all building, health, zoning, and fire codes.
If unapproved work is found to be in progress or completed, or a property is in disrepair, the Board’s violation process is triggered depending upon the Standards for that particular district. Historic Board staff routinely survey the districts and notify people through a Request for Compliance that a potential violation exists and that resolution is needed. If noncompliance with the Board’s Standards exists, the person responsible will be required to take action to resolve the situation – which might mean doing something as simple as removing a sign or addressing maintenance needs such as painting. In addition, if work completed or underway is inconsistent with the Board’s Design Review Standards and approval process, the tenant/property owner may be required to undo the change and to repair any damage at his/her own expense.
If compliance is quickly achieved, the Board will not vote to issue formal violation notices. However, if compliance is not achieved in a timely manner, the Board will initiate a several step violation process outlined below. Ultimately, violations within the districts may be subject to fines of up to $100 per day per violation with each day constituting a separate offense.
If you believe work has been undertaken in violation of the Board’s regulations or wish to report a possible violation, please feel free to contact the Board staff who will investigate the concern.
PROCEDURES FOR POTENTIAL VIOLATIONS
LOWELL HISTORIC BOARD
The Lowell Historic Board Administrator (the “Administrator), or any other person delegated by the Lowell Historic Board (the “Board) acting upon the recommendation of the Administrator, shall ensure compliance with the Lowell Historic District Act (the “Act”) and the Design Review Standards and regulations promulgated thereunder (the “Standards).
If at any time during this violation procedure the tenant/owner complies with the Act/Standards, the process will be interrupted. If however, within six (6) months the alleged violation, or a violation which is substantially the same (e.g. replacing one noncomplying sign with another) is reintroduced, the Administrator or Board shall not be required to implement the entire violation procedure, but shall resume the procedure at the point it was interrupted when the temporary compliance occurred.
I. Request for Compliance
After a visual inspection the Administrator has reason to believe that a tenant/property owner is allegedly in violation of the Act/Standards, the Administrator shall contact the tenant/owner in writing and attempt to ensure compliance of the Act/Standards within seven (7) days. Depending upon the level of work, an immediate cease and desist order may have to be issued.
II. Order for Compliance
If seven (7) days have passed without resolution of the potential violation, the Administrator shall report the situation to the Board at its next regularly scheduled meeting at which time the Board may vote to send the first Order for Compliance to the tenant/property owner.
III. Final Order for Compliance
If after seven (7) days of mailing the Order for Compliance the alleged violation has not been corrected or is not in the process of being corrected according to the Board’s process and Standards, the Final Order for Compliance will be sent, notifying the tenant/property owner that a report will be made to the Board at its next regularly scheduled meeting concerning the alleged violation.
IV. Order to Appear
If the Board determines that an alleged violation exists, the Board shall issue an Order to Appear to the tenant/owner, who may then either comply with the Act/Standards or appear before the Board at a public hearing to be conducted within forty-five (45) days of said notice, at which time the Board will determine if the tenant/owner is in violation of the Act/Standards.
V. Public Hearing
At the Hearing, the Administrator shall describe the nature of the alleged violation(s). Thereafter, the Chairman shall provide the tenant/owner with an opportunity to be heard and to show cause why he/she should not be found in violation of the Act/Standards. Based upon the information presented at the public hearing, the Board shall determine whether the tenant/owner is in violation of the Act/Standards, and shall specifically enumerate its findings of fact and reasons for its decision.
VI. Written Notice of Board’s Decision/Ordered Compliance
The Board shall then issue a written notice of the Board’s decision to the tenant/owner by certified mail, return receipt requested. Any person found to be in violation of the Act/Standards may be assessed a maximum penalty of One Hundred Dollars ($100.00) per day for each day of each violation. The first day of the violation shall be the date of receipt of the Board’s certified notice indicated by the date on the return receipt. If the certified mail notice is returned as unclaimed, the date of the mailing shall be considered the first day of violation.
VII. Enforcement in Superior Court
If the tenant/owner fails to comply with the Board’s order within seven (7) days of notice of the Board’s decision, the Board may file a complaint in the Superior Court Department of the Trial Court seeking enforcement of the Act/Standards.