Readers Write: Residents question Baxter House decision

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Concerned citizens living in the Village of Baxter Estates and in the town of Port Washington are asking why the Village of Baxter Estates Board has decided to ask the owner of the Baxter House to submit an application for demolition of the centuries old and landmarked namesake of the village.

A number of issues make this request on the part of the Village trustees a troubling one:

1.  The Village Code does not allow the building inspector to bypass the Landmark Preservation Commission and order demolition.

2. The Landmark Preservation Commission just two days earlier issued a written resolution finding that the owner violated the Historic Preservation Law by allowing the house to fall into its current state of decay.

After spending in excess of $100,000 in legal fees to defend the house, and after finally obtaining a directive from the Landmark Commission with the power to initiate remedial measures, the village decided to demolish it.

Citizens question this logic.

(Specifically:  At the March 2 Board meeting, the village indicated that the building inspector would be acting to enforce Local Law 1 of 2016 the following week. While the Inspector did not issue any violations, he did write to Landmark Preservation Commission asking for confirmation of his belief that the state of the house violated the provisions of Local Law 1.

The commission ultimately met on April 24 and confirmed the Inspector’s findings, and on Tuesday, May 9 met again to issue a written resolution.)

3. The village is ordering the owner to demolish a home that the Village claims suffered from neglect at the hands of said owner, thus rewarding her for disregarding the rules that set out by the Board that the rest of Village of Baxter Estates residents live by (and trust the board to help enforce).

4. The village asks for demolition of the house with no plan on what replaces it and no guarantee that about what is built there.

The board has received no assurance that what is built will be consistent with the historic site and the Village of Baxter Estates community.

Expecting the current owner to comply with community expectations is not realistic.

Concerned citizens understand that the Village of Baxter Estates board is in a difficult position.

To be sure, pieces of the roof appear to be loose and may have ended up on neighbors’ properties.  No one wants to see the charred remains of the house for much longer.

But no one wants to see the house demolished without being certain that all options have been exhausted and without any assurances of what will go there in its place.

Citizens ask the Village of Baxter Estates Board to reconsider the demolition directive — in part because the order is not a lawful one (see: Ch. 80, §80-3 and §80-7), but also because less destructive means to alleviate any dangerous conditions are preferable.

Once the house is gone, this historic structure is lost forever.  The gateway to the village of Baxter Estates, its namesake, and the very nature of the village is at risk.

Michael Scotto

Save the Baxter House

Community Group

Village of Baxter Estates

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