[Ed. note: Anyone who wants the complete back story on The Belfry, enter the word Belfry in my Search box on the right. Start with the oldest article and work your way up].
The Bedford Town Board met at 7pm tonight to listen to and
vote on weigh in on the appeal presented by the owners of The Belfry who filed for a permit to demolish the Tudor home but were denied by the Town Historic Preservation Commission.
The lawyer for the owners was first to speak, but he very smartly made his comments brief, reiterated “our contention is that the Historic Preservation Commission made an error.”
She made the case that they have been Bedford residents for 27 years and when they were shown The Belfry around Christmas of 2010, before deciding to purchase it, she and her husband did their due diligence, hiring local lawyers, local surveyors, and engineers.
It wasn’t until four months later, April 2011, that they were notified by the secretary to the Historic Preservation Commission that their home sat “on a survey”.
The owner contended they were never notified of the survey. No one, not their attorney, not their real estate broker, not the seller who managed the property for years, and not the local owner’s representative. None of those parties was aware that the house sat on a list of historic homes.
On May 12, they met with the Head of Planning Board and asked if other homeowners knew about the list and could they have a copy. They were given ONE PAGE, the “H” page, for the name of the road on which The Belfry sits.
It was then that the owners asked to meet with the Town Historian, John Stockbridge, one of the authors of the list, but he refused unless they were represented by their lawyers.*** [This comment didn’t make sense to me so I may have heard it wrong: perhaps Stockbridge wouldn’t meet with the owners unless he, Stockbridge, had a lawyer. I’ll have to wait to see what the local papers say to get that detail correct.]
The owner added that they would never have purchased the Belfry had they known it was on a list. Their experts determined that the home was functionally obsolete not to mention that Chubb refused to insure it. And when the Commission usurped their rights and encumbered their home by putting in on a list without their permission or knowledge, she said they felt betrayed by the Town, as if the property was seized. She ended by saying she felt “the ordinance went profoundly astray.”
Mr. Stockbridge spoke of the Master Plan set forth by the Town of Bedford in 2002 which implemented a preservation ordinance for the purpose of determining historic dwellings in town, based on a love of the town and the desire to preserve it.
Mr. Stockbridge said he was “incredulous” that neither the owners, nor the lawyers, nor realtors knew The Belfry was on a survey and stood firm in his contention that the house met enough of historic criteria to be denied application to tear it down.
This, despite the fact the owners were not aware of the list. To back up a bit, the owner in her comments tonight, made reference to the 2002 Ordinance and how she felt it was wonderful that the Town felt so strongly about preservation, BUT the ordinance clearly states the owners must be informed that their home is being considered historic. She said, the previous owners of The Belfry waited nine years to be told and it wasn’t until they, the new owners, purchased it and made known the intention of tearing it down, did the list appear.
No comments from the public were allowed and The Town Board voted to go into Executive Session, which means they discuss and vote in private. After about 20 minutes, they returned:
DEMOLITION PERMIT TO BE GRANTED, WITH THE FOLLOWING CONDITIONS:
1. The section of the home, known as The Belfry, which consists of the living room, front stairs, the actual belfry, (and I believe they said dining room), must remain.
2. The east and south wings of the main house can come down.
3. The demolition must be done in a specific order, the outbuildings first.
4. The owners may relocate the historic Belfry section of the home to another part of the property or if it remains in its current position, they can incorporate it into any new home they design and build.
5. It can also remain as a free-standing building when relocated and the new home can be built without incorporation.
6. The belfry section must be restored to historic specification, whether it sits separately on the property or is attached to the new home.
The historic core of the home (interior and exterior) stays and will be restored. The new home will be built. Everyone is happy? BTW, I have chosen not to use the names of the owners here. It is a matter of public record and anyone can find it on their own. I don’t choose to release it. The Bedford Patch article linked here by a reader does mention the owners by name.