Letter: 119 Water St. applicant has not met adequate conditions

Posted 1/18/23

To the editor:

In order to get a waiver to demolish the historic buildings at 119 and 113 Water Street, the applicant must meet one of the three conditions listed below. From the Warren Code of …

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Letter: 119 Water St. applicant has not met adequate conditions

Posted

To the editor:

In order to get a waiver to demolish the historic buildings at 119 and 113 Water Street, the applicant must meet one of the three conditions listed below. From the Warren Code of Ordinances, DIVISION 2.- DEMOLITION OF HISTORIC BUILDINGS, Sec. 4-35, Conditions for granting a waiver to alter or demolish:

“In the case of a main or princical building or structure located in the Warren Waterfront National Register Historic District, the [Planning Board] may grant a waiver to alter or demolish a building or structure only upon a finding that at least one of the following exists:
Retention of such building or structure constitutes a hazard to public safety which cannot be eliminated by economic means available to the owner…”

The public safety hazard has been eliminated by the tenants being moved out and the buildings being secured. There has been no evidence submitted that the owner lacks the economic means to retain the buildings.

“Preservation of such building or structure would cause undue or unreasonable financial hardship to the owner; taking into account the financial resources available to the owner, including sale of the building or structure to any purchaser willing to preserve such building or structure…”

No information regarding the owner’s financial resources or hardship has been provided. Although the owner’s engineering report stated that lifting the 119 Water Street building off the ground and building a new foundation would cost $1 million, that is an extreme solution and price, which has not been independently validated. The Town’s engineer confirmed the need for major repairs, but provided no cost estimate or the need for demolition. The owner has denied independent inspection and estimates from contractors/engineers with historic preservation experience. There has also been no evidence provided that the property has been publicly offered for sale to relieve any possible financial hardship to the owner.

“Preservation of such building or structure would not be in the best interest of the community."

Community priorities are set forth in Warren’s Comprehensive Plan, which emphasizes the importance of historic preservation in the Warren Waterfront Historic District generally, and on Water Street in particular.
The Economic Development section recognizes the importance of this district as an economic engine for the town and states the following:

"As the heart of the Historic District, Water Street's historic character and consistency of the streetscape must be protected. Water Street is attractive because of its small-scale buildings, diversity of activities and distinct ‘realness.’”

The Land Use section establishes policies aimed at preserving the character of the town, including:

“Preserve town character as embodied by settlement patterns and historic buildings.”

“Preserve the scale of the town as characterized by the size and massing of its buildings and historic district.”

Therefore, this proposal does not conform to Warren’s Comprehensive Plan.
Almost 800 residents have signed a petition opposing the applicant's proposal, and many residents are attending meetings and writing letters expressing their disapproval. Preservation of these buildings is clearly in the best interest of the community.

The Planning Board must find at least one of the three conditions listed above have been met in order for a demolition waiver to be granted. To date, none of these conditions have been met by the applicant.

Davison Bolster
53 State St.

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