Malvern, which celebrated its 125th anniversary last year, wants to add an extra step to its building-permit process to preserve historical properties.
The borough is considering a process to review all proposals to significantly alter or demolish historic properties or resources. Officials would work with property owners to try to preserve that which makes the structures historical.
According to a proposed ordinance that would create a Historical Overlay District, the protection of about 250 primarily residential structures is a matter of "public necessity."
"We have a handful of them that were around during the Revolutionary War," said Zeyn Uzman, chair of the borough's Historical Commission. "Unfortunately, one of them will probably be torn down in the next six months."
Uzman explained the potential ordinance to about 70 residents at a meeting Tuesday night at a church.
A developer plans to build residential units at the site of a house on Old Lincoln Highway that dates to the 1780s. The Historical Commission estimates that the house is the second- or third-oldest structure in Malvern.
The ordinance, which must be approved by the borough council, cannot protect properties from being demolished, but it would allow the borough to preserve the history of those places, Uzman said.
"If we're going to lose a structure, we at least want to go in there and take pictures and document as much as we can," he said. Currently, borough officials are not permitted to enter someone's residence to document it.
The ordinance is a way for Malvern to monitor exterior construction and alterations, and would not dictate, for example, what color someone's door should be. A few years ago, the borough presented a more stringent ordinance that residents did not support, Uzman said.
The Historical Overlay District designation would include properties that are at least 50 years old and meet several criteria.
The ordinance would apply to places that have a "distinctive character recalling the historical, architectural, residential, commercial, aesthetic, and cultural heritage" of the borough, Chester County, and the state.
Several residents said they were glad that borough officials were trying to preserve Malvern's character.
A few expressed concerns about the burden of maintaining historic properties, which home renovations qualify as demolition, and what some called the ordinance's "intrusive" nature.
"This is a much less obtrusive ordinance than most" similar laws in other towns, said Wendy McLean, the borough solicitor.
The ordinance would allow people to ask the borough to take their structures off the historical list. The Historical Commission could add more to the list.
Violators of the ordinance would have to pay a fine equal to the market value or replacement value of the property that was destroyed. The borough also would refuse to issue a permit for any new construction on the affected property for a year.