Demo Permit pulled for 135 Deerfoot; Preservation efforts beginning or is demo just delayed?

by beth on February 16, 2018

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Above: The historic home and barn were part of a Chapter 61A parcel that selectmen opted not to purchase last fall. (image left from realtor.com, right from Google Maps)

In a split vote last November, the Board of Selectmen rejected their right of first refusal on 135 Deerfoot Road. Recently, the new owner has pulled a demotion permit to demolish the historic home on the property.

The Historical Commission has deemed the property worth Preferential Preservation. But, I’m not sure if that can help preserve the property or just puts a nine month delay on demolition.

In meetings leading up to the decision, some proponents of the developer purchasing the land pointed to development plans they liked. Documents showed intent to keep the historic buildings and build only five more homes.

At the time, Open Space Preservation Chair Freddie Gillespie warned that without a binding legal agreement, once the developer owned the property he could do whatever he wanted.

On Monday night, the Historical Commission held a public hearing on the pulled demolition permit. Given the Commission’s prior support for asking Town Meeting to purchase the land and preserve the home, there was no question how it would rule.

Still, it’s surprising to learn through Southborough Wicked Local that the developer didn’t send anyone to speak or answer questions at the hearing:

Joe Hubley, chairman of the Historical Commission, said the commission voted to consider the home and barn “preferentially preserved,” which calls for the delay under town bylaws. Such properties include any historically or architecturally significant building which the commission determines is in the public interest to be preserved or rehabilitated rather than to be demolished, according to the bylaw.

Hubley said Brendon Properties, which applied for the demolition permit, did not send a representative to the public hearing. The company did not return a phone call and email from the Daily News Tuesday afternoon.

“We thought the talks that were agreed to between the builder and the neighborhood was to preserve that building and the barn,” Hubley said. “I don’t know if they are now doing that.”

Hubley said he can only confirm that the company filed for the permit. (read more)

The Demolition Delay bylaw wasn’t written to simply start a nine month clock on when demolition could take place. It was intended to encourage owners to work with Historical Commission on alternatives to demolition. The bylaw dictates:

It shall be the responsibility of the owner of record or his designee to assist in the facilitation of the above process by providing information, allowing access to the property and securing the premises; for participating in the investigation of preservation options; and for actively cooperating in seeking alternatives with the Commission and any interested parties.

The “above process” includes that the permit may be granted if:

The Commission is satisfied that for at least nine months the owner has made continuing, bona fide and reasonable efforts to locate a purchaser to preserve, rehabilitate or restore the subject building, and that such efforts have been unsuccessful.

The permit may also be granted sooner if the Commission deems that preserving the house isn’t possible. The question is, what happens after nine months pass if the Commission and owner are at odds over whether or not “continuing, bona fide and reasonable efforts” have been made?

At this point, that’s not clear to me.

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