House Torn Down Every 3.8 Days in Wellesley

Phyllis Theermann


Dear Sustainable Wellesley Readers,


Does it seem like there are a lot of teardowns in Wellesley? It’s not your imagination – a Wellesley home is torn down every 3.8 days.
Teardowns are not unique to Wellesley, but the pace of demolitions is greater than in any other town. This is because all neighboring towns as well as 150 towns across the Commonwealth have a Demolition Review Bylaw in place. Wellesley does not have this bylaw, so we are a very attractive town to developers. In 2015 alone there were 95 teardowns in our town. Compare that with 42 in 2007.


Why should we care that our current housing stock is being torn down and replaced with large “speculative” McMansions built by developers? Here are just a few reasons:
  • loss of our mature trees and tree canopy due to clear-cutting of lots
  • loss of valuable topsoil due to regrading of landscapes
  • loss of sun, sightlines, and privacy due to towering houses
  • deeper basements mean ledge blasting and damage to nearby homes
  • more lot coverage means more polluted stormwater runoff and flooded neighbor basements
  • the original home’s materials, and the energy and resources used to build it, are wasted and sent to landfills
  • neighborhood character and economic diversity are lost
  • home values are decreased, as the remaining neighborhood properties are now worth only the value of the land and the glut of high-end supply is depressing values.
What can be done to slow the teardowns?
Our Historical Commission is proposing a Demolition Review Bylaw for Wellesley, which will put us on par with our peer communities and remove the target that exists on our town. It will be up for a vote at this spring’s Town Meeting.
How would it work?
The process would only review structures built prior to December 31, 1949, and the delay would only be triggered if the structure is deemed “preferably preserved” for its historical or architectural value. A public hearing would occur for these eligible structures and the Historical Commission would vote whether or not to delay demolition. If a delay is imposed, the Commission will encourage the owner to file a waiver to pursue an addition or renovation. (There are many lovely older homes in Wellesley that have been renovated to fit modern-day lifestyles.) However, if a compromise cannot be achieved after 12 months, the house can be torn down.
Will a Demolition Review Bylaw hurt property values?
The Historical Commission’s research shows that in recent years, towns with Demolition Review Bylaws have significantly outperformed Wellesley in property value appreciation.
Want to learn more?
View the Wellesley Historical Commission’s excellent presentations to the Advisory Committee [October 26, 2016] and the Planning Board [December 5, 2016].
Here’s How to Act Now:
  1. Sign the online teardown petition at
  2. Attend upcoming Board of Selectmen meeting (January 17 @7pm at Town Hall), where the Historical Commission will be discussing this topic and seeking the Selectmen’s endorsement of the bylaw.
  3. Forward this message to your Wellesley friends and neighbors who care about the character and economic diversity of Wellesley and want to encourage smart, sustainable growth, and ask them to do the same.
  4. More to come – We will be in touch over the coming weeks with more information and with additional ways for you to consider supporting this effort.
“Wellesley, the Beautiful” didn’t just happen – it was planned this way. Let’s not let it slip away home by home. Please join the Sustainable Wellesley leadership team and support the upcoming Demolition Review Bylaw.
Best Regards,
Jeff, Lise, Paul, Phyllis, Quentin and Scott
Sustainable Wellesley Leadership Team

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Phyllis Theermann
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