BHAC Approves Vast Majority of 225 Applications Processed in ’23

The Beacon Hill Architectural Commission processed 225 applications in 2023 – up slightly from 222 applications the previous year.

According to the BHAC’s recently released Year in Review, 49.8 percent of applications in 2023 were approved as submitted (administrative and design) while 16.1 percent of applications were approved with provisos. Another 5.4 percent of applications in 2023 entailed the ratification of violations and subsequent approval of applications.

Additionally, 10.3 percent of applications from last year are currently being processed and pending a decision, while another 16.1 percent of applications are classified as pending for a variety of reasons (withdrawn, urgent repair, exempt, advisory).

Only 2.2 percent of applications in 2023 were either denied without prejudice (meaning the applicant could return to the commission with a modified proposal on the same application) or denied outright. Of 73 violations last year, 43 were ratified.

“If you look at the data, you see there’s only 2.2 percent of applications denied, so that’s the big message we want to get across,” said Nicholas Armata, BHAC staff, who added that the “key component” for the approval of applications is outreach to staff on the part of applicants and them using the resources available to the public.

“I pride myself on keeping the website up to date with current information and making sure I set time aside for the public to answer questions on what’s approvable, and video doorbells are certainly approvable, provided they are installed in accordance with the district standards,” he said.

And with the BHAC seeing increasingly more applications for video doorbell systems, Armata also reminds the public that all exterior features visible from a public way or park fall under the purview of the Beacon Hill Historic District. He encourages would-be applicants to reach out to staff with any questions they might have.

“We’re always happy to lead you in the right direction on what’s approvable, and video doorbells are certainly approvable, provided they are installed in accordance with the district standards ”,” said Armata.

The commission also welcomed three new commissioners in 2024 – Maurice Finegold representing the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, along with two new representatives for the Beacon Hill Civic Association, Curtis Kemeny and Sandy Steele.

“All three have been critical to providing a balanced perspective on each application,” said Armata.

Finegold brings extensive experience and knowledge of history, according to Armata, while Steele is a longtime Beacon Hill resident, as well as an attorney. Another Beacon Hill resident, Kemeny has a background in real estate.

The four new businesses that opened in the Beacon Hill Historic District last year included Barnaby’s Toy Shack, Music Research Library, Vico Style, and 25 Willow Boutique.

Meanwhile, the city submitted a home-rule petition on Aug. 24 to expand the boundaries of the Beacon Hill Historic District by enlarging the area to include all of the North Slope via the addition of an approximately 40-foot-wide area running from Charles Circle to Bowdoin Street along Cambridge Street on the Beacon Hill side, which isn’t currently included in the district. Rep. Jay Livingstone subsequently filed proposed legislation (H.4076, “An Act enhancing the Historic Beacon Hill District”), which mirrors the home-rule petition unanimously passed by the City Council  and signed by Mayor Michelle Wu. This bill was the subject of a public hearing of the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government held on Oct. 17 at the State House, and its status is now described as “in process,” according to the BHAC.

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