Sent to Chairman Salins and members of the Landmark Preservation Commission
I write today to request that the Landmark Preservation Commission meet on its own initiative by a call of the chairman or the request of any three members pursuant to §118-3(E)-—in order to discuss the Village’s plans to demolish the Baxter House.
The village’s Historic Preservation Law provides that the Commission, and the Commission alone, has jurisdiction to decide what happens to historically designated properties (§118-6). While there is an exception for alterations made at the order of a village building official “for the purpose of remedying conditions determined to be unsafe or dangerous to the life, health, safety or property of any person,” §118-6(I), I submit that demolishing the village’s sole landmark, the village’s namesake as a way to remedy debris falling onto neighboring properties is an extreme and unwarranted measure.
I believe that the directive to demolish is not only disproportionate, it is unlawful. In the case of a dangerous or unsafe condition, the village is required to seek court approval to demolish (Village Code §80-7). It can’t be the case that the village can simply raze a landmarked home based merely on a finding by a village official. Further, how is it possible that a request for demolition follows a mere two days after the Commission issued a written resolution affirming the Building Inspector’s conclusion that the owner had violated the historic preservation law by allowing the house to fall into a state of disrepair? What was the point of that finding if the outcome will still be loss of the house? And why are we rewarding the homeowner for her callous disregard for the house and the village’s landmark law?
As an independent village body with jurisdiction over the Baxter House, I believe you can and must play a role in determining the fate of the house. If shingles are falling from the roof and causing a hazard, cannot the loose shingles be removed as an emergency measure? Are there not steps that will safeguard the community that can be taken short of demolishing the house?
Demolition under these circumstances, without regard to what follows is hardly an acceptable outcome and certainly one that is contrary to the careful historic preservation scheme that the village enacted and the commission is empowered to enforce.
I implore you meet and discuss intervening to protect the Baxter House. The Commission has on four occasions protected the house, I ask that you do so this last time. Once the house is gone we lose not only our village’s namesake, but I believe our identity. What indeed is the Incorporated Village of Baxter Estates without the Baxter House?