Knock ‘Em Down! (Update Added)

I apologize for posting this so late. It’s been a busy day.

The wooden house next to Terrain -- in its Curran Cadillac days, before it was spruced up.

The wooden house next to Terrain — in its Curran Cadillac days, before it was spruced up.

But not as busy as the Historic District Commission’s night will be.

Meeting at 7 this evening (Town Hall, Room 201), they’ll comment on an application from Terrain to demolish the 19th century wooden building at the corner of Crescent Road (opposite the firehouse), and replace it with 9 parking spots.

UPDATE: Apparently the request by Terrain has been withdrawn. Tonight is their 1-year anniversary dinner. Maybe it’s bad form to have a private dinner with New York media on the same night as a teardown request?

But that’s just a warm-up okay. The agenda also includes:

  • To take such action as the meeting may determine to reconsider waiving the balance of the delay period for a demolition permit application at 44 Spicer Road
  • To take such action … to waive the balance of the delay period for a demolition permit application at 60 West Parish Road.
  • To take such action … to waive the balance of the delay period for a demolition permit application at 12 Harding Lane. 
  • To take such action … to waive the balance of the delay period for a demolition permit application at 6 Rebel Road.
  • To take such action … to waive the balance of the delay period for a demolition permit application at 46 Partrick Road.
  • To take such action … to waive the balance of the delay period for a demolition permit application for the house and garage at 8 Compo Hill Avenue c. 1920 identified on the Historic Resources Inventory.
  • To take such action … to waive the balance of the delay period for a demolition permit application at 35 Church Lane, identified on the Historic Resources Inventory as the Kemper-Gunn House c. 1890.
  • To take such action … to waive the balance of the delay period for a demolition permit application at 121 Imperial Avenue.
  •  To take such action … to waive the balance of the delay period for a demolition permit application at 28 Turkey Hill Road South.
  • To take such action … to waive the balance of the delay period for a demolition permit application at 6 Harbor Road
  • To take such action … to waive the balance of the delay period for a demolition permit application at 37 Evergreen Parkway, identified on the Historic Resources Inventory c. 1915.
  • To take such action … to waive the balance of the delay period for a demolition permit application at 4 Jackie Lane
  • To take such action … to waive the balance of the delay period for a demolition permit application at One Lantern Hill Road
  • To take such action … to waive the balance of the delay period for a demolition permit application at 7 Grist Mill Lane. 
  • To take such action … to waive the balance of the delay period for a demolition permit application at 15 Appletree Trail. 
  •  To take such action … to waive the balance of the delay period for a demolition permit application at 28 Maple Avenue

That’s a lot of work. Afterward, they might want to go out for a beer to relax.

I suggest the Spotted Horse. It’s a nice old building, with lots of ambiance.

Spotted Horse, Westport CT

17 responses to “Knock ‘Em Down! (Update Added)

  1. Holly Wheeler

    Pretty soon, Westport’s gonna be McMansionville as any house with charm and history will have made it through the demolition application process … and beyond.

  2. Holy cow! That’s some list and I’ll risk putting it out there even though I no longer live in Westport. I love Westport and our yearly visits back to my childhood town. So, I’m sure I’ll get told to shut up 06880 style, you don’t pay to live here and all of the usual stuff but I’ll say it again, holy cow. Why can’t other towns and cities be studied for their historic home and neighborhood preservation? Charleston, SC for one is a gorgeous historic city by the sea with many original homes renovated and still standing. Philly and some of it’s suburbs, San Fran to name some other cities who preserve many of their old homes and neighborhoods. Just wondering if all the tear down is always necessary.

  3. Jill Ross Beres

    that is exactly what I was going to ask?

  4. Tracy Flood

    Same stuff, different day. Sadly it’s just more of the same. The Historic Commission has no teeth. The McMansions cannot be stopped. Very sad. Tracy Flood

  5. Ed Stalling

    It’s what gives (soon to be “gave”) New England, and Westport, the uniqueness. It’s what keeps you out of sameness, you know, like Maumee Ohio, Overland Park Kansas, Eden Prairie MN, and the zillions of Sameness Suburbs. I’ve travelled to thousands of them, and when I return to Westport it’s what makes it feel so special.

  6. Jamie Walsh

    Yes, unfortunate, but it just seems that Westport has a school district everyone wants, good for property values…bad for character ….and it seems that character, charm and scale mean nothing these days. I can’t tell you how many realtors I have talked to that tell me…” They came in…and the first thing out of their mouths is please show me only new construction, oh and these are the 3 houses we have looked at online and we want to see them first. This is the age of the Internet browsers who plug in certain requirements and they do not always stop to look at the whole picture…just the picture they want to see. I drive down so many streets in Westport and look at some of what developers are building and wonder…. what the hell were they thinking. Palladia would have a field day if he knew just how abused the architectural detail named after him has become!!! Anyway, this article is about the destruction of a old 19th century building for a few more parking spots. Adding 9 more parking spots at Terrain is solving the problem like putting a bandaid on an arterial wound… and another 100+ year old structure is slated for the dumpster.

  7. We do have historic districts in town which protect the buildings within from being torn down or altered significantly on the exterior. I happen to live in one. I also happen to shutter at the surge of tear downs being replaced by the 5000 sq ft + cookie-cutter models. What I found counter intuitive to the general concern raised by many at the number of tear downs is that the property taxing authority seems to assign a higher market value to homes in historic districts (ergo…higher real estate taxes)..
    I have argued this point with the tax assessors and the vendor that conducted. the latest reassessments. I was shocked when I experienced a big increase in my tax rate with the 2004 reassessment since my house footprint had remained unchanged yet all over town smaller houses were being torn down replaced my huge houses. I had assumed that my house’s share of the grand list had gone done, but instead it went up! The reason was the the valuation of the land. For instance, my land .62 acres, had an assessed valuation of approximately equivalent to 2 acres in most non-historic neighborhoods.
    The punch line is that people and places that do not (or can’t) tear their vintage homes down should be paying LESS taxes for their land rather than more. While i acknowledge I would personally benefit from such a change, the fact is if we want to discourage teardowns, the real estate taxes should not be penalizing people who cannot do so and consequently their home’s market value is decreased because unlike other homes their market is limited to a much smaller niche in the market.

  8. As far as I can tell, one 2 or 3 of these are in the flood zones, which should be approved promptly. The others require more thought.

  9. I was also sorry to see the Gunn House on this list for demolition? I thought the developer was trying to move this? Guess I haven’t been keeping up lately but I loved that house as a child and visited an older woman who lived there after swimming at the Y. Having once lived near Eden Prairie as a huge cookie cutter suburb mentioned above — talk about nightmare — you can’t even recognize where you are everything looks the same — I drove in circles every time I visited. There were no distinguishing landmarks, old homes, interesting stores or anything to let you know where you were. Many of the neighborhoods were indistinguishable with homes all around or about 13K sq. ft, most starting at one million give or take, and all looked the same and I would become hopelessly lost for hours at a time before there was gps. So, Westport has always been a feast for the eyes and heart with it’s charm, familiar landmarks and homes and structures from long ago. It seems to me Westport could become a landmark all it’s own with it’s rich history and century old plus structures, stories and become a place of true historic value to this country. Could turn it into a vacation destination even to view a piece of the history of this country — have a look at the possibilities – http://www.charlestoncvb.com/.

  10. What exactly does the Historic Commission do? Do they ever actually ever save old homes by denying tear downs and if so how many have they saved? it also seems as though the same few builders are building the same sprawling, behemouth prefab designs everywhere. clearing the intended lots of old growth to make way. Row upon row of “ticky tacky” thugs with chemically groomed and maintained lawns. Spring in Westport can now be defined by the endless sound of construction followed by the subsequential deafening amplitude of leaf blowers.

  11. Matthew Mandell

    1. The Terrain House – This is a corporate double cross. The leaders of Urban Outfitters, who own Terrain, agreed to save the house and made a deal with elected officials, the P&Z and Town. Now because they need parking for what 9 spots, they want to rip it down. NO!!!!! Westport should not in any way accept this. They will be coming to P&Z for their site plan to create this parking area on June 11. I urge everyone to write to P&Z and to attend and tell Terrain and the P&Z this is unacceptable for so many reasons.

    In the mean time, my kids are no longer shopping at Urban and urge everyone else to do the only thing a corporation understands, keep your money away from them.

    2. The Kemper/Gunn house – the town is in the process of finding a developer interested in preserving it in exchange for ownership. There is an RFP to so on the town website. If you know anyone who wants to get a deal and own a piece of downtown send them my way and I’ll answer any questions.

  12. Perhaps the mission of 06880 has now been clarified more after the dust settled some from Dan’s recent stand – one can actually think while reading the blog and comments now instead of recoiling and logging off. Dan is a unique collector and cataloger of historic stories, events, memories, town characters, historic sites, — fascinating facts about the history of the town and it’s residents and more — all in Westport. Westport is a highly unique and wonderful town or it was and to lose that completely would be terrible. The stories are rich in history, colorful in descriptions of people, places, experiences that have made Westport one of a kind. And it seems to be getting lost pretty rapidly now as far as I can see from my visits. Maybe it’s time to step it up before it’s too late and Westport becomes a vast wasteland of mcmansions, chain stores and stepford lawns and gardens. How about the story he just wrote about JD Salinger and his home in Westport. That’s great stuff. Who wants to lose that? And that’s just one story of many. If I were visiting for the first time, a guided tour of the historical sights and homes with all of the stories of the people of Westport past and present with a great tour guide would be worth it. Preserve it as much as you can. Just one person’s opinion, of course.

  13. John McCarthy

    If you own a home that is over 50 years old and have not had it included in a local historic district, or given it similar, legal protections against future demolition, you are not credible when you complain about teardowns…..first, do something about it with your own house, then encourage others to do the same…..

  14. It seems to me that what this is all about the culture of preservation or the lack thereof. Property ownership can be and is a hot button issue. I for one do not want any interference in maximizing the value of my property. I believe that is my right. My home happens to be in a historic district but I know when I sell it the most valuable thing about our property is the land not the house. I fully expect that whomever buys our house, which is not for sale, will rip down our old and constantly upgraded house.

  15. Fred Cantor

    I’m a strong supporter of historic preservation but I think it’s very possible that much of what the above list reflects–by that I mean the number of homes seeking to waive the balance of the delay period for a demolition permit–is that the homes have questionable historic value. And I think this may well have to do with the 50-year standard which is currently used. Perhaps this needs to be revisited.

    By way of example, I grew up on Easton Road a little north of the Merritt Parkway. Many of the houses near us were built in the 1950’s; there was a large group of very similar split-level homes in the Warnock/Rockyfield area, and we also had nondescript ranch houses and standard postwar colonial homes. Do these truly have architectural merit because they are now more than 50 years old? I think the same question would apply to the large development of colonial homes built in the Colony Road/Salem Road/Joanne Circle area where friends and classmates lived.

    Re the point Bill Ryan raised: I contended a long time ago that the basic formula for valuation of homes in Westport seems to be off. There appears to be a far too high percentage allocated to the land, as opposed to the structure itself. If the amount of land is such an important component, why can developers significantly raise the fair market value of a property buy tearing down an existing home and building a larger new one? The assessors should be looking at the fair market value of each property, period.

    • Tracy Flood

      Great point Fred. The 50 year declaration probably needs to be re-evaluated. And you are correct about the percentage alloted to the land as well. Tracy Flood

  16. Judy Hogenauer Davidson

    37 Evergreen Pky-I grew up in that house-My Mom Margaret Hogenauer taught kindergarten at Green’s Farms Elem-she and Mrs Leary planted the willow trees along the creek from twigs-this had to be in the1920’s-what a shame!!!