Commission Agrees To Allow Demolition Of Two Historic Homes

CHATHAM – In an example of how the town's historic heritage is being whittled away, only one of three homes subjected to demolition delay will be saved in its entirety.

Some historic elements of the other two homes will be salvaged, but they'll likely become floors or mantles in other houses, possibly not even in Chatham.

The historical commission invoked the town's demolition delay bylaw on several homes in the past year. Two were for a period of 18 months, another was for nine months. Representatives of owners of two of the buildings under demolition delay last week asked the commission to lift the restrict early after failing to find anyone willing to move the homes.

The lure of an antique home simply doesn't overcome the cost and complication of moving a building.

“I guess the days of putting them on a barge and floating them across are gone,” said commission chairman Frank Messina.

Rick Roy, who is working on moving the only one of the recent demolition delayed homes to be saved, said there are more deterrents than incentives in place.

“The fact is there are layers of rules and regulations,” from a variety of town and other agencies, he told the commission last week. “There's a lot of hoops to jump through in order to get something like this in place. And it takes very little to get it to the place where it's the straw that breaks the camel's back.”

Roy is working on moving a 1762 home at 181 Champlain Rd. down the street to 43 Sears Rd. Along with dealing with utilities, he's had to figure out who has authority over trees along Champlain Road, which is a designated scenic road.

“It's quite a process,” he said.

The antique house at 203 Champlain Rd. is being moved onto the 181 Champlain Rd. site, and Roy was before the commission last week seeking permission to put the 181 Champlain Rd. house up on cribbing until permitting and designs are completed for the final move to Sears Road. The old house will have to be cut in two in order to move it down the road, he added. The 18-month demolition delay on the home expires in February.

Despite advertising its availability for a year, no taker was found to move the circa 1800 house at 76 Barcliff Ave., attorney William Riley told the commission. A dozen or so people toured the house, and there was serious interest from one person, who wanted to move the building to a lot in South Chatham, but ultimately decided not to follow through.

“We think we've done about as much as we can in terms of advertising the property as available for moving,” Riley said, asking the commission to lift the 18-month demolition delay, which is set to expire in February.

Property owner Robert Adamo said once moving and renovating the building are factored together, the numbers just don't add up. Riley said the building's width requires that it be cut up in order to move it, and the cost associated with reassembling it “really just makes it prohibitive.”

“We've gotten a lot of phone calls and meetings, but it just hasn't worked,” he said.

Contractor Jeff Brown of Jeff Brown, Inc., lives in a home built about the same time and plans on salvaging many of the home's elements. “There are amazing floors in there, doors, hardware,” he said. Even the bricks in the chimney can be reused in restoration work he does in historical graveyards, he said. He's already taken an old shed from the property that is now at his Harwich farm.

“There's all kinds of stuff we're going to use. We're not just going to take the excavator to it,” Brown said.

Messina gave the owner “an A for effort.” When the commission sought the 18-month demolition delay from town meeting, members promised that it would not be used punitively, he said. “I think we've done due diligence enough from our perspective that I feel comfortable allowing” demolition to proceed, he said.

The commission voted to lift the demolition delay. Adamo said it will take six to eight weeks to salvage the building.

The commission also voted to lift a nine-month demolition delay on a home at 375 Bridge St. Owner David Oppenheim said he had been working with the property owner to the east, but the person decided not to proceed with moving the structure after looking closely into the cost of the move and bringing the building up to current codes. Another person who looked at moving the house abandoned the effort because it could not make it around the bend in the road near the lighthouse.

“We're basically out of options are far as moving it,” Oppenheim said.

But like the Barcliff Avenue house, there are elements in the 1816 Bridge Street house that can be reused. Oppenheim said the owners would like to begin dismantling the structure in October and raze it in early November, so that the land can be graded and seeded to prevent it from becoming “a big mud hole” in the winter.


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