Meeting Minutes for Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Members present: Doug Walker, Scott Oliver, Tom Weller, Noel Greiner, John Evans, Kathy Scott
Members of the public: William Raynor, Jason Raynor, Erin Hammerstedt, Leslie Voiers, Chick Colony, Pat Colony


The Historic District Commission continued its meeting of April 10, 2018 for Application #1-2018 Jason and Stephanie Raynor, Map 61 Lot 4, 3 Main Street, Miller property.

HDC Chairman Doug Walker opened the meeting at 7:00 pm to address the following agenda items:

Meeting Minutes of April 10, 2018
Kathy Scott requested an amendment to the April 10 minutes to read that she suggestedthe original structure at 3 Main Street dates to 1775, as opposed to reading she assessedthe house dated to 1775.  Members unanimously agreed. Members also unanimously approved the addition of the names of applicants Jason and Stephanie Raynor to the section “Members of the public”. Noel Greiner subsequently moved to approve the meeting minutes as amended. Scott Oliver seconded. All voted in favor.

Historic District Boundary Line for 3 Main Street
Doug Walker explained that, in its research, the HDC had confirmed that the subject property lies within the Historic District and that the earlier discrepancy was due to incorrect property tax identification numbers which were used as reference points in the town zoning ordinances. References in the ordinances to Lot 61-3 should read Lot 61-4. Further explanation of the discrepancy was included in a handout to the public.

Harrisville’s Designation as a National Historic Landmark District

Further research by the HDC into Harrisville’s designation as a National Historic Landmark District led commission members to reflect more intensively on the importance of this designation, and the ramifications of alterations to it and alterations to any buildings within it. Mr. Walker noted that NH has 23 historic landmark districts and that, out of those 23, only 3 are actual settlements, one being Harrisville.

Mr. Walker then read a portion of the handout related to moving a historic building within a Landmark District as follows: Moving a historic building is sometimes the only way to save it from demolition but such an action should be undertaken only as a last resort when all other preservation options have been exhausted. When a historic building has been moved, it loses its integrity of setting and its sense of place and time – important aspects of the historic character of a building and its environment. Mr. Walker expressed the impact of this language on the HDC’s thinking and noted the available documentation depicting 3 Main Street as listed within, and as part of, the Nation Landmark District.

Relevant Guidelines for HDC Oversight
The HDC outlined applicable language from its own guidelines, adopted in 1969, as well as guidelines provided by the NH Preservation Alliance and the Department of the Interior for National Historic Landmarks. Citing the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitationas parameters for approval of any project for 3 Main Street, Mr. Walker read:  Rehabilitation aims to preserve the character defining features of the historic resource(s) that may be impacted by the project which, in this case, include both 3 Main Street and the Harrisville Historic District, of which it is a contributing element. The project must retain all of the essential building elements, and should preserve the existing spatial relationships to the greatest extent possible.

The HDC identified the following essential building elements:

The house— a two story frame building with symmetrical façade and side-gabled roof;

The wing— a 1.5 story, side-gabled attachment to the east end of the house;

The barn– a 2-story frame building with decorative features on the south facing gabled end;

The angled wood shed– should it predate 1900, the end of the district’s period of significance (1774-1900), also could be considered an essential building by the HDC;
The foundation– the granite foundation is also considered part of the historic fabric of the house and, if the house is moved, all aspects of the granite foundation must remain visible from the road.

Additional requirements
The HDC further specified that spatial relationships must be maintained, including orientation of the façade of the house to the road, visibility of the entire house façade, visibility of the entire barn façade, relationship of the house to the wing, relationship of the house to the barn (with the house as the primary element and its façade forward of the barn façade), elevations of the house relative to elevation of the barn, and location of all historic building elements within the historic district boundary. If a garage is to be added, it should be secondary to both the house and the barn and its doors may not face the front (south) elevation.

The HDC noted that “any request to demolish ANY structure after historical basis has been established will only be granted after review by a professionally licensed engineer.” (from handout). Mr. Walker did state that certain elements not considered to be character defining, including the 6-foot addition on the rear of the house and the shed roofed addition on the rear of the barn, could be removed, if necessary. However, the HDC feels it needs technical assistance from the NH Division of Historical Resources to ascertain the age of the building and its additions, how it can be moved and which portions can be demolished.

Kathy Scott noted that difficult compromises will have to be made on both sides to work within the guidelines and to honor the history of the property and its historic appearance.  The applicant and board then discussed at length the possible project alternatives, a logical chronology, and the challenge, costs, and time involved to produce a site plan and iron out plan details. Mr. Raynor expressed concern that the project would be delayed, causing additional expenses and ramifications for all involved. Mr. Walker noted the board does not feel comfortable moving ahead with approval of any alternative until it receives assistance from preservation experts regarding demolition or relocation and establishing the age of various portions of the house.

Mr. Walker subsequently moved that the HDC seek assistance from the NH Division of Historical Resources for the purpose of acquiring technical assistance on the demolition and moving of buildings at 3 Main Street. The next meeting will be postponed until further notice but all efforts to expedite the application process towards a mid-May meeting at the latest (May 15) will ensue. Kathy Scott seconded.

In discussing input from experts at the state level, it was not certain how soon assessment could be done and whether it would involve more than one expert. Erin Hammerstedt offered that she and Fred O’Connor could possibly provide some input, if allowed access, to assess building materials and historical integrity. Mr. Raynor said he needed to speak to the owner as well as his attorney, adding his concern again about the seeming ambiguity of the board and delaying of the project another year, though he respects the objectives to preserve historic integrity of the building and to protect the historic district. He also expressed concern about the bias of Historical Harrisville. The point was made that, if preferred, an independent consultant could be hired and that the determining factor will be whether or not the assessed portions are contributing historical elements to the landmark status and whether or not they thus could be removed – either way, affecting the overall design and the impact of any removal on the district.

The board and applicant then reviewed the timing of the application and the 45 day review process. It was agreed that the application was accepted and then amended and that, once technical input is received and plans are submitted, the clock will resume on the 45-day deadline for a determination by the HDC.

Mr. Walker reread the motion and called for a vote. HDC voted unanimously in favor, 6-0.

Design ideas and parameters
Subsequent discussion concerning the design focused on the garage and what could be acceptable. Other garages were cited as examples of designs and new construction within the historic district.

Mr. Raynor requested approval of at least a rough outline of the house footprint but the HDC was not comfortable doing so until receiving further input from the state. Mr. Walker stated they need to know what can be taken down before knowing what can be put up.

Noel Greiner encouraged Mr. Raynor to work with his design team to prepare some options and Mr. Raynor noted he had submitted several ideas already. The group hoped the applicant could work within the guidelines provided without enduring undue financial burden. Chick Colony raised the question whether or not the HDC’s vote to allow the relocation implied an acceptance of a design and, if not, what that means for the applicant as the potential buyer and for the HDC which approved the relocation with conditions regarding design parameters. Both the board and applicant expressed the ability and hope to avoid an unworkable scenario.

At Tom Weller’s suggestion, Mr. Raynor offered to share further design concepts with the HDC so that members could share them with experts from the state and get their input. Kathy Scott noted that it was likely the next applicant to propose an idea similar to Mr. Raynor’s could face very different circumstances, and possibly new HDC regulations, in light of this process and the additional information that has come to light. She did note that she felt the HDC would honor its vote to allow the relocation but would give any design proposal a very hard look.

Action items included: the HDC will attempt to bring in state experts as soon as possible in order to expedite the timing of the next meeting; and Mr. Raynor will confer with the property owner and his attorney regarding a site visit by Fred O’Connor and Erin Hammerstedt.

Before adjourning, it was clarified that the strongest enforcement on the relocation of buildings lies at the local level but that the guidelines are written at the federal level.

Additionally, Leslie Voiers suggested that all residents within the historic district receive communication regarding activity of the HDC. Mr. Walker added the HDC intends to resume its regular monthly meetings and that revisions of regulations could be imminent but, in the meantime, all relevant guidelines and regulations, as well as meeting minutes and notices, will be posted on line.

Meeting adjourned at 8:45 pm.