The fate of Baxter House hangs in the balance as the Baxter Estates Planning Board considers a proposal for subdivision of the property where the historic home sits. At a public hearing on Dec. 21, owner Sabrina Wu presented preliminary plans for the subdivision and construction of a new home adjacent to Baxter House. Located at the corner of Shore Road and Central Drive, the historic residence was given landmark status in 2005 after Wu purchased the property in 2003. It remains in serious disrepair and is currently uninhabitable.
Speaking on behalf of Wu, Attorney Thomas Levin explained that the cost of renovating the landmarked home has become prohibitive. Approval of the plan would provide Wu with the funds she needs to rehabilitate the historic residence. Levin pointed out, however, that while Wu intends to repair and occupy the home, there is no guarantee Baxter House can be saved. Engineers and inspectors engaged by Wu all concur that it is highly unlikely the home can be restored and have recommended the house be razed. Notwithstanding, Levin said that Wu intends to restore the home and the proposed plan is essential to finance these efforts. Levin characterized the meeting as “testing the waters” to see whether it made sense for Wu to make a formal application in the future.
A standing-room only crowd of residents, preservationists and other interested parties expressed opposition to both the demolition of the historic residence and to the subdivision. Concerns were raised about the intentions of Wu and whether the Village could obtain assurances that the home would be saved. Others objected to the specifics of the plan and questioned whether the expert opinions of the applicant’s engineers and inspectors could be verified independently. A few of the attendees suspected demolition by neglect, pointing out that the owner did not make a good-faith effort to preserve the historic house. Others offered solutions to the challenges Levin cited as reasons for demolishing the home. Chris Bain, president of the Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society, questioned the viability of the plan, stating that to lose the house “would be nothing more than criminal.” (See the Letter to the Editor from Chris Bain on page 24A ).
In order to proceed, any application will require approval of several Village boards, including the Landmark Preservation Commission. It is anticipated that a joint meeting of all the relevant Village agencies will be scheduled at a future date to further consider the matter should Wu continue the application process.