Property in Pleasant Brook is governed by a set of various property restrictions that fall under the oversight of two regulatory bodies: the Pleasant Brook Association and the Lexington Historical Commission. The following sections describe the architectural, landscaping, property use, and other attributes that are regulated within Pleasant Brook and require written approval before implementation or change. The process for seeking approval for changes can be found on the changes page. The founders of the neighborhood noted in the original restriction documents that: "Many of us moved here because we were attracted by the rural atmosphere and by the architectural harmony of the area. Preservation of these require the full co-operation of all residents." That full cooperation is still an integral part of the culture of the neighborhood today.
Legal Basis of Restrictions
The first restrictions to be established, and were enacted when the original Shanahan Farm land was subdivided into individual parcels. Each parcel had a set of property use restrictions attached to the deed, and can be reviewed in the documents below or on the Middlesex South District Registry of Deeds website. When the Pleasant Brook Association was established in 1967, a set of architectural and landscaping restrictions were adopted in 1970 by an amendment to the Association trust, and are overseen and enforced by the Association. In 2020, each Pleasant Brook property was designated by the Massachusetts Historical Commission as a historically- and architecturally-significant place, and falls under the Lexington Historical Commission's review process and demolition delay bylaw. Therefore, the restrictions laid out below are legally enforceable by the Pleasant Brook Association and Lexington Historical Commission respectively.
Architectural and Landscaping Restrictions
Written approval from the Pleasant Brook Association is required for any of the following changes:
- Exterior changes: Renovations to houses or other existing structures which change the exterior in any way — including, for example, additions, decks, platforms, raised terraces, new or re-located door and window openings, changes in exterior finish materials, changes in roof line, etc., etc.
- New structures: New structures of any kind (attached or freestanding) — including, for example, carports, garages, storage or tool sheds, play houses, major play equipment, tree houses, etc. Provided that the nature and location of minor structures are such as not to constitute an eyesore to the community or to a neighbor, the Trustees may grant approval for such, as temporary structures, with a specified time limit on them.
- Fences: Fences, walls or screens of any length or height.
- Walls: Removal or re-location of any existing fieldstone walls.
- Hardscaping: Steps, surfaced paths, patios, or raised terraces of any kind.
- Hedges: Planting of hedges or other similar planting not in keeping with the present natural and informal character of the area. ``Hedge", as used here, is defined as a more or less formal planting of bushes or small trees in a clearly defined line or pattern more than 10 feet long, the visual effect of which is a solid and continuous barrier.
- Plant removal: Removal of any living trees 4" in diameter or larger. Extensive removal of other living growth where such growth constitutes a feature of the community landscape or where the removal of such growth would noticeably affect the landscape and appearance of a neighboring lot.
- Grading: Major changes in the grading of any lot, including the bringing in of fill (but not topsoil), or the removal or the re-location of existing earth.
- Driveways: New or relocated driveways.
- Signs: Signs of any kind.
- Other: Any other structural or landscaping change which materially affects the appearance of the community.
Historical Attribute Restrictions
The Historical Commission's demolition delay by-law and formal review process only applies to "substantial demolition". Substantial demolition of a building or portion thereof shall mean one or more of the following:
- Roof changes: The removal of a building’s roof or roofing materials or alteration of a roofline
- Exterior changes: The removal or alteration of any of the exterior architectural features of a building; including clapboards or other cladding, exterior moldings and trim, sheathing boards, roofing, or doors, windows and their frames
- Demolition: The removal of more than one exterior wall of a building
- Relocation: The lifting or relocating of a building on its existing or to another site
Property Use Restrictions
The following property use restrictions are outlined in each Pleasant Brook property deed:
- Buildings: No building shall be erected on the premises except one single-family dwelling house, one garage for not more than two automobiles and other usual outbuildings.
- Occupancy: Not more than one family shall occupy the dwelling house at one time, and no family shall occupy any other building on the lot at any time as a dwelling, except that persons employed by the owners of the property for the time being may occupy living quarters in the garage. No building shall be used for any purpose except in connection with the occupancy of the dwelling house for residence purposes.
- Changes: After erection of the initial dwelling house to be erected on the above-described premises, no building, fence, wall or other structure shall be erected upon and no major change shall be made in the landscaping of the above-described premises except with the approval in writing of the Pleasant-Brook Association (and, if any part of the granted premises constitute a portion of the land conveyed by Mason to Compton by deed dated June 12, 1952, recorded at said Deeds in Book 7918, Page 378, then the written approval of Peacock Farms Association shall also be necessary) which approvals shall not be unreasonably withheld, to the end that the entire development of which the granted premises are a part shall constitute a harmonious whole, and provided that any subsequent purchaser or mortgagee may conclusively presume that this restriction has been complied with unless a certificate shall have been recorded and/or registered with Middlesex South District Deeds by Pleasant-Brook Association (or by Peacock Farms Association, if approval is required as stated above) specifying breach thereof and, in general language, the nature and extent of such breach.
- Animals: No animals or birds shall be kept on the premises for commercial purposes or in any manner so as to be unreasonably offensive to the neighborhood for residence purposes.
- Commercial use: No business, trade manufacturing or industrial use shall be made of the premises at any time, but professional activities within the dwelling, such as medical, architectural, legal services, and the like are not prohibited by this restriction, provided (1) the building shall not be structurally erected or altered for this purpose so as to appear to be other than a dwelling, and (2) no sign shall be placed on the premises except one inconspicuous professional sign attached to the dwelling. No sign other than as hereinbefore stated and one sign advertising the property for sale shall be erected or maintained on the promises.
- Land taking: The grantees, for themselves, and their heirs, executors, administrators and assigns, agree to convey to the Town of Lexington on request and without charge, the fee of or an easement in that part of the granted promises lying within any street shown on the said plan and to make no claim for damages on account of a taking thereof by said Town.
- Amendments: Any or all of the foregoing restrictions may be modified, amended or released as to all or any part of the land subject thereto or having the benefit thereof by written declaration recorded and/or registered with said Deeds executed by Pleasant-Brook Association (and, where applicable pursuant to Paragraph 3 hereof, also by Peacock Farms Association) provided, however, that no such amendment imposing any additional or greater restriction shall be applicable to any part of the said land unless consented to in writing by the then owner of the said part. Said promises are also conveyed together with such other encumbrances of record, if any (including without limitation certain rights granted to the Town of Lexington), as are now in force and applicable to the extent that the same are now in force and applicable; and the grantor reserves for itself, its successors and assigns the right to do such banking and sloping as may be necessary or convenient for the construction of any street shown on the said plan to the satisfaction of the Town of Lexington and to enter the premises for said purposes.