The Plympton Historical Commission met Monday night at the Town House for a demolition hearing on a house located at 6 Cross Street and a continuation of a hearing for a second demolition hearing for 3 Forest Street.
Present were Commission chair Jon Wilhelmsen, Jane Schulze, member, and Jill Palenstijn, member, who is also a licensed contractor, and Rick Burnet, Associate member, who is a licensed contractor and builder.
The Cross Street property, owned by Melinda Descanctis, is a Greek-revival cottage, a common mid 19th century structure for Plympton. Similar structures exist or existed on Center Street and perhaps elsewhere in town, according to Wilhelmsen.
Ms. Descanctis told the Commission that she is not willing to consider renovating the structure and would replace it with a modular structure with 2 ½ baths, a three-car garage, and would be complete with septic system. “Without being too aggressive … I’m definitely not going to rehab the house. It’s not feasible,” she said.
“Is there a middle ground here? If not, we’re all just wasting our time.“
Dana Nilson, a contractor with Southeast Development Co, LLC, from Marion, said , “It all doesn’t have to go into a dumpster, much can be salvaged. There are other ways to salvage this.”
Wilhelmsen said that he had to look at the by-law and see what it allows. “We’re trying to work with folks and we want to do our job.”
Jane Schulze remembered how overwhelmed she felt when she first moved into her antique home. She asked Ms. Descanctis if she had wanted to restore the home when she first purchased it, to which Ms. Descanctis said she had thought it would be worth it.
Jill Palenstijn commented, “As an historian, what concerns me is not just this one house, but many.” “In 15 years it could be a totally different landscape as one after another old homes are replaced.” She said she could also look at it from a practical point of view, but like others on the board, said she needed more time to consider the proposal.
The Commission adjourned the hearing on 6 Cross Street to Monday, August 3, at 7 p.m. to give members time to review the added information brought before them.
They then re-opened the hearing on the 3 Forest Street property, owned by Elsie Murgida. Architect Bob Gosselin of K&G Development Corp in Kingston, brought new drawings for the Commission’s consideration. The owner, at age 85, is unable to deal with the house as it stands and seeks relief by way of reconstructing the home.
The plan first brought to the commission was a very basic ranch with none of the character of the old house, which was likely built as a summer cottage near Silver Lake in the 1920s. The new plan drawn mimics the original house’s architecture while meeting the needs of the homeowner.
Jill Palenstijn commented, “I certainly appreciate the nod to the original.”
Associate member Rick Burnet had made a site inspection to 3 Forest St. determining that the original part of the house would be difficult and costly to salvage as it rests on a limited foundation.
This hearing was continued to Monday, Aug. 3, at 7:30 p.m.
Wilhelmsen gave the following insight into the by-law:
The Demolition Delay Bylaw for Historically or Architecturally Significant Buildings was enacted to help preserve and protect “significant buildings within the Town of Plympton…Such buildings reflect distinctive features of the architectural, cultural, economic, political or social history of the town…”
Additionally, “The intent of the bylaw is to provide an opportunity to develop preservation solutions for significant, preferably preserved properties threatened with demolition.
The bylaw is intended to encourage owners and townspeople to seek out persons who might be willing to purchase, preserve, rehabilitate or restore such buildings rather than demolish them, and to limit the detrimental effect of the demolition on the historical or architectural resources of the Town.
The bylaw also allows the Commission discretion on how to meet this goal as it states in Section 3.5 that the Commission shall “determine whether the building should be preferably preserved”.
The Commission takes its role very seriously and endeavors to take into consideration any and all information provided by the applicants.
That said, it must also be sure that it upholds the intent and purpose of the bylaw. The current applications before the Commission are more challenging than those that have previously come before the Commission given that the structural concerns are less certain.
The Commission must consider the intent and purpose of the bylaw along with the information presented by the applicants and that which it has independently gathered to arrive at a decision.
The hearing process is the primary avenue of relief that the homeowner has. The consideration of all information available and provided is a role that the members take very seriously.