Meeting Minutes for Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Members present: Doug Walker, Scott Oliver, Tom Weller, Noel Greiner, John Evans, Kathy Scott
Members of the public: Rob Miller, Les LaMois, Chick Colony, Pat Colony, Doug McCarthy, Pat McCarthy, Deirdre Oliver, Jeff Trudelle, Erin Hammerstedt, Bill Raynor, Brice Raynor, Jay Jacobs

Agenda: Site visit at 3 Main Street followed by public hearing for HDC Application #1-2018, Jason and Stephanie Raynor, Map 61 Lot 4

The Historic District Commission met for a site visit at 3 Main Street on Tuesday, April 10, 2018, followed by a public hearing at Town Offices at 705 Chesham Road. The purpose was to view the existing property, discuss the proposed plans of prospective owners, Jason and Stephanie Raynor, and to hear questions and feedback from the public.

The Raynors, as prospective purchasers of 3 Main Street, submitted an application to relocate the main house in its existing orientation and attach it to the barn that currently sits separately behind it. Additionally, the applicants seek to renew the existing structure, make repairs to the exterior, remove the failing, angled addition and construct a deck on the back of the barn, facing the waterfront. Rob Miller, son of the current owner, provided additional information about the history of the property.

Following a walk around the site, attendees moved to the town offices for the public hearing.

Mr. Walker reviewed the agenda and the purpose of the meeting. The question arose, as it had during the site visit, whether or not, or how exactly, the property lies within the Historic District. The group reviewed tax maps, the Historic District Inventory list from1992, and the Harrisville Zoning ordinances to attempt to confirm its official status. The HDC stated it would follow up to confirm the property’s and structures’ designations within both local and national historic landmark boundaries. According to Erin Hammerstedt, the structures lie within the National Historic Landmark District but the property itself is bisected.

The applicants stated their preference was to proceed with the hearing, and for their application to be considered under the strictest standards, even if such standards were not ultimately obligatory.

Providing historical background on the property, HDC member Kathy Scott assessed the house as dating from 1775, originally owned by Phineas Stanford. It contained a center chimney in a manner similar to the Twitchell house, and with lines more in Federal style than Greek Revival.  On the old Harrisville tax maps, the house is known as the Yardley house, the family that owned it after the Stanfords until the early 20thcentury. Ms. Scott added the architectural style and features were something to keep in mind for any design modifications or structural alterations.

Doug Walker then referred to the 1969 Historic District Commission Guidelines, along with NH Preservation Alliance guidelines which inform the HDC regulations and HDC determination of applications. Mr. Walker stated there is nothing in either the guidelines or HDC regulations restricting the relocation of historic buildings. He then noted the key questions considered for any property:

  • Why is the property significant?
  • What are its key features and their degree of integrity?
  • What is the nature and scope of the project? Is it adequately described?
  • How will the proposed work affect the property’s significance, key features and integrity?
  • Will one still be able to interpret the building and its context?
  • Will the proposed work serve the community’s preservation goals?

Mr. Walker further stated that, in a 1983 historic inventory, the property is described as a two and ½ story white clapboard center entry house with 1½ story shed and ell on the south gabled end. The property’s most interesting feature is the large original barn with cupola, decorative hayloft and barn door surround, and round gable window. Mr. Walker noted that the existing barn appears to be original but on a new foundation and that the HDC is not sure at this time how many other changes have been made to it. He also noted that the angled addition on the side of the house, thought to be recent, appears on a 1910 survey map. Therefore, though not original, this feature has some historic value.

Additional features include the fact, similar to most properties in the village and in New England, of a residence with a barn subservient to the main structure. For the Raynor application, the HDC would look at any proposed modifications in the context of preserving such features and their relationship to each other and to the property as a whole.

Mr. Walker described the three sets of design plans submitted by the Raynors and how each set differed. Potential design changes were offered by HDC members, with the goal of maintaining the spirit and integrity of the original property. Mr. Raynor responded that they were flexible to a degree. He shared some mock-ups that could address the HDC’s objectives but added that, in addition to considering historic integrity, the proposed changes consider the property’s waterfront location. The Raynors hope to reduce the square footage of house which, if all buildings were connected, would total approximately 8500 square feet. The new proposal totals about 5500 sq. feet., significantly reducing impervious cover. Further design modifications, including for the driveway, were proposed and discussed. Tom Weller noted he hopes to see the home’s relationship to the streetscape preserved.

Mr. Colony asked the HDC to clarify what specific action was before them and what decision they intended to make. Mr. Walker responded that the key question at this point was whether the HDC would allow the relocation of the building and that, until this is determined, it didn’t make sense to review and vet all the typical details explored and vetted in HDC applications. The HDC considers this stage one in the process and that the two issues immediately before it include: 1) the question of moving the house and, if that was determined to be allowable, then how such a relocation would be carried out to maintain the key architectural features and integrity; and 2) confirmation of whether or not the house resides in the historic district.

Addressing the question of moving the building, Mr. Walker reiterated that there was nothing in their regulations specifically preventing it. Erin Hammerstedt then asked to speak to the historic preservation aspect, sharing a letter outlining National Register preservation guidelines that prevent the relocation of historic structures listed in the National Register unless there is no feasible alternative to preserve that structure. She presented Historic Harrisville’s view that, though the applicant’s proposal to move the house for its own design purposes was understandable, HHI wants to establish that this is necessary. She provided documentation of regulations applicable to National Register buildings, noting that the subject property is listed as a contributing element to the National Historic Landmark District. In addition, she provided Mr. Walker with a book on guidelines for moving a building, how to do it and what should be considered, if it is determined that relocation is required for preservation. Though Ms. Hammerstedt stated she didn’t believe moving the building would threaten the historic district as a whole, any relocation should be evaluated according to how it affects the district and not just that property.  Mr. Raynor asked Ms. Hammerstedt if she could share the documentation identifying 3 Main Street as a contributing element to the National Historic Landmark District and she stated she would. Mr. Raynor added that he believes they are not proposing to change the historic district in any way and they are not proposing to relocate the building outside the historic district. Ms. Hammerstedt recommended that either the Raynors or the HDC connect with historic preservationists at the state level to discuss the importance and specifics of being a contributing element and all the factors and features to consider regarding the relationship to the larger historic district, e.g. setbacks and orientation to the street.

In response to questions from Rob Miller, Erin Hammerstedt stated her position is that the building should not be moved. In addition, she explained that, under federal landmark regulations, in weighing whether or not a property would retain its historic landmark designation upon modifications to it or relocation, they consider any adverse effect or intrusion upon historic resources either above or below ground and if the new situation is appropriate. Mr. Raynor confirmed that they would apply to the appropriate federal officials to retain such a designation.

Adam Kossayda, Mr. Raynor’s attorney, stated he didn’t believe the standard is whether or not the building has to be moved, but that the local HDC regulations apply and that the application conforms to these regulations. Mr. Kossayda reviewed the individual standards set forth by the HDC and argued that the proposal is in keeping with the present use, historic nature and specific requirements. The point was raised that other buildings have been moved into and out of the historic district. Debate ensued between the applicant’s attorney and Historic Harrisville on the different criteria, followed by a request to return to the quintessential question of the HDC’s position on relocating the house on the property.

HDC members Kathy Scott stated she was not opposed to approving relocation, given that the historical integrity of the property had previously been compromised and changes had been made to it, but she expressed concerns about the proposed design, and would like to see it honor the 19thcentury characteristics and maintain the relationships of the buildings to each other.  Mr. Raynor emphasized they would like to work with the HDC on the design to ensure its concerns are addressed. Mr. Kossayda proposed that the relocation could be approved with conditions placed on the design.

Mr. Colony noted that the HDC, in its 50-year history, has never moved a building. He added that moving into a historic district implies a certain understanding and sensitivity to preservation, and that he believes this includes not moving a building unless you have to. He worries about opening up a Pandora’s box. Mr. Miller asked if the Raynors, under federal guidelines, would have to demonstrate that the building is structurally unsound. Both he and Mr. Raynor stated the engineering reports do confirm certain weaknesses. Mr. Kossayda reiterated his point that the question is whether or not, under HDC regulations, the building can be moved, and that it’s not prohibited.

Discussion of the wording of a motion on the floor ensued. Noel Greiner subsequently moved to discuss the relocation of the building on 3 Main Street.In their comments, all board members agreed that they did not have specific issues with the relocation of the building but had design concerns, specifically related to maintaining architectural features, scale and proportion, that would need to be ironed out. Examples of buildings that had been moved were cited and Scott Oliver stated he believes the Raynors would be good stewards of the land and would improve the property, which is the gateway to the village.

Subsequently, Noel Greiner moved to approve the relocation of the building with conditions to be outlined pending the final design. Kathy Scott seconded. The vote was 6-0 in favor.  

For the next meeting, the HDC will provide the Raynors with a list of specifications that need to be included in the site plan.

In separate HDC business, Noel Greiner moved to approve the meeting minutes of December 14, 2017. Scott Oliver seconded. All voted in favor.

At 8:07 pm, the meeting was continued until Tuesday, April 17, 2018 at 7:00 pm, when the HDC will discuss its requirements and confirm the historic designations on the property.