Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tuesday Night Brief: Historical Commission Completes Hearing on Hawthorne Farm; Tables Deliberation Till Next Meeting

A few days ago, the Gazette reported on debates over demolition or reuse of an old farmhouse on property the town of Amherst had purchased for affordable housing and recreation, to which I also alluded in my last piece. The town had researched the structure and presented reports suggesting that adaptive reuse was impractical and prohibitively expensive, for which reason it was requesting demolition (which could entail moving rather than demolishing the house:  under the law, the former technically constitutes demolition, as well).
the public--and the applicant, Director of Conservation and Development David Ziomek (in white shirt) in the Town Room last night
The demolition delay meeting last night was a very long one, due to the extensive public comment from the audience: mainly abutters, but also some members and former members of the Community Preservation Act Committee, under whose auspices the town had purchased the property. The comment was overwhelmingly in favor of saving the house. Some speakers questioned the calculations and reasoning of town staff.  Given the late hour, the Commission decided to complete the public hearing and take up deliberation on the official historical significance of the structure at its next meeting on October 5.  Stay tuned.

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Here, the backgrounder from the recent Gazette:

Amherst Historical Commission to weigh demolition of 1850s farmhouse on East Pleasant Street

Staff Writer

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

AMHERST - A Greek Revival farmhouse that has been a fixture along East Pleasant Street for more than 150 years could be torn down in the coming weeks.

The Historical Commission Tuesday will hold a demolition delay hearing on the request to remove the 1850s farmhouse, as well as two barns, from the streetscape at 235 East Pleasant St.

The hearing begins at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall.

Because Amherst acquired the property from the Hawthorne family this year, the town's own Conservation and Development Office has filed the request for the demolition permit.

Town Manager Larry Shaffer said tours of the home indicate there is little salvageable and that the sooner the home is demolished, the sooner the town can begin preparations for constructing what he calls new "workforce housing" on the site. This would be aimed at people whose earnings are below the area median salaries.

There is no timetable for building this housing, though, as the town needs to find an agency with which to partner.

The town purchased the property primarily because of its proximity to the Wildwood School, which makes it an ideal place for constructing new playing fields. A secondary consideration was the possibility of affordable or low-income housing.

Shaffer said it is unrealistic to use the home just as a rental. "The town didn't buy the property to be landlords," Shaffer said.

His concern is the maintenance cost, and the longer the farmhouse remains standing, the more it will deteriorate, causing blight and becoming an attractive place for squatters.

Until new housing and the playing fields are built, the property will remain vacant.

"When the farmhouse is demolished, it will be an attractive site," Shaffer said. "We want to be responsible property owners."

1 comment:

Larry Kelley said...

Yeah, stand down and take a deep breath.

The 'People's Republic of Amherst' absorbing this private property with tax dollars was as hurried as it was ill conceived.

But to let the 'Powers That Be' walk all over you by carpet bombing this homestead with no regard to neighborhood or history aficionados wishes is an even BIGGER mistake.