Shaw outbuildings’ demolitions approved

news_inthenews_greenBy Errol Castens
Daily Journal

OXFORD – Outbuildings at a historic home near downtown Oxford are approved for demolition by the Oxford Historic Preservation Commission.

A majority of commissioners last week agreed that each of the structures, including a dilapidated shack, a concrete slab, a half-century-old ranch house and similarly aged apartment duplex, did not contribute to the historic character of either the property or the district.

“I don’t think Oxford’s a lesser place by the demolition of any of these structures,” said Commissioner John Abernathy. “I think we have to be careful with what comes back.”

Commissioner Camp Best opposed all four demolitions.

“There’s an elephant in the middle of the room. There’s an elephant in the middle of the property,” he said. “We haven’t talked about the preservation of the Shaw House.”

“Those plans will be finalized,” answered attorney Clark Trout, who represented the prospective developers. “My client and his wife are very, very interested in restoring the property to a state that’s complementary to when it was constructed … and exhibit a great deal of pride in what they’re going to do with the Shaw House.”

The five-acre property has been proposed for development with restoration of the 6,000-square-foot house (circa 1860) and the construction from 14 to 18 condominium units surrounding it. No plans have yet been approved. Nearby homes include 1960s-era duplexes and recent-vintage townhouses along with varied sizes of historic, single-family houses.

Commission Chairman Brian Hyneman reminded members that the demolition decision had to be based on criteria specified by city ordinance:

• The resource is not individually, architecturally, culturally, and/or historically significant.

• The resource does not contribute to the architectural character of the district.

• The removal of the resource will not negatively impact neighboring property values.

• The resource is not difficult or impossible to reproduce because of its texture, design, material, detail, or unique character.

• The removal of the resource will not impact the structural integrity or character of the surrounding structures.

• The removal of the resource does not alter or diminish the statement of significance for the establishment of the preservation district where the property is located.

Hyneman said of the caretaker’s house, “My view is that it cannot be seen, and its removal will not negatively impact the surrounding structures nor the surrounding properties.”

Commissioners also voted, by identical 7-2 and 8-1 margins, to approve resodding the demolition sites along with ingress and egress.

Of the ranch house’s historic value, Commissioner Sarah Frances Hardy said, “If they brought the plan for this house to us now, we would not approve it.”

Commissioner Sonia Weinberg Thompson, who opposed all demolitions but the concrete slab, said the demolition could affect surrounding property values.

“On paper, if you could just erase it, no,” she said. “But with the process of demolition, it could. Possibly.”