The saga of 63 Turkey Hill Road South continues. Built in 1920, it’s one of 4 remaining Mediterranean-style houses in Westport.
Neighbors hope to save it from a proposed demolition. Right now, it’s under a 180-day stay. Lisa Fay appealed to the Historic District Commission. She wrote:
As a resident of the Greens Farms area, and a Turkey Hill Road South neighbor for 8 years, I have witnessed the demolition of many diverse homes in the area, and the subsequent building of new homes that share too many qualities of style, size and lot coverage. I feel strongly that buyers, our neighbors – and our town — need urgently to consider what we are losing by letting these demolitions happen.
Firstly, original homes – particularly antiques – reflect a town’s history, complexity and heritage. Just by driving down Turkey Hill Road, a tourist or resident witnesses the wonderful aesthetic and cultural history of Westport. With each demolition, we diminish our town’s unique character. To make matters worse, the new homes built on these lots share few variations in footprint, roof form, and materials.
Secondly, many antique homes – although some in need of repair and updating – could never be duplicated with today’s costs. Antique homes possess a certain solidity, built from wood from 100+ year-old trees, not particle board. These homes have withstood decades of human life and natural disasters, and are still standing. By definition, this makes them, in some senses, priceless.
Thirdly, neighbors lose yet another year of peace and neighborly culture while living in a major construction zone. My Turkey Hill neighbors and I have withstood countless trucks, dust, dirt, traffic, noise and loss of hundreds of trees from lots that have been clear cut.
Thirdly, these demolitions exact a cost to our environment. Most of these materials from demolished homes end up in a landfill. Can’t builders try to work with what they have to minimize the impact on our environment?
Lastly, demolishing this home reflects yet another lost opportunity to get our town antique preservation benefits right. While the demolition of any antique home upsets me for all the aforementioned reasons, I sympathize with any seller who is in a situation to sell urgently, without regard to the buyer’s intent. Giving antique owners – and potential buyers – incentive to keep antique homes could help stem the tide of demolitions.
Tax relief could provide such incentive. The Mills Act in San Diego provides an example of where tax relief has helped owners maintain the character of their neighborhoods by encouraging preservation. Owners of old homes sign a 10-year renewable contract to restore and maintain their antiques, and in turn receive a 50% discount in their taxes. If Westport intends to maintain its cultural heritage in part by protecting its old homes, it needs urgently to partner with owners in this respect.
Thank you for your leadership in helping to preserve our town’s heritage and character.