HISTORIC DISTRICT COMMISSION
MINUTES OF TUESDAY, MAY 15, 2018
Members present: Doug Walker, Kathy Scott, Scott Oliver, Tom Weller, Noel Greiner, John Evans
Members of the public: Katrina Farmer, Rob Miller, Jay Raynor (applicant), Adam Kossayda (attorney for applicant) Lyda Stinchfield, Shane Long, Leslie Voiers, Pat Colony, Chick Colony, Jeff Trudelle, Kathy Bollerud William Raynor, Erin Hammerstedt, Ray Bollerud, Don Scott, Jeannie Eastman, Nick Colony, Brice Raynor
Meeting called to order at 7:04 pm.
Motion to Approve the Minutes of April 17
Two amendments were proposed by the applicant: 1) On page 2, under the description of the essential building elements, revise the language about the foundation to read, “All aspects of the foundation visible from the road should have a granite veneer;” and, 2) At the top of page 3, subsequent to Mr. Walker’s comments about receiving input from preservation experts and determining the date of the angled ell, add Jay Raynor’s question to Erin Hammerstedt of Historic Harrisville that, if it was determined that the angled ell post-dated 1900, would it be non-contributory and therefore able to be demolished, to which Ms. Hammerstedt responded, yes, it would make it non-contributory and able to be demolished. Following agreement by the board, Noel Greiner moved to accept the minutes as amended. Tom Weller seconded. All voted in favor.
Resumption of Hearing on HDC Application 2018-1 Raynor/Miller, 3 Main Street
Issue one: Legal status of Jay Raynor as applicant.
Mr. Walker summarized that the original application did not provide for having an agent represent the owner but, upon receipt of letters from the town attorney Silas Little and from Rob Miller, it was determined and agreed upon that conditions were present for agency to be granted retroactively. Rather than ask Mr. Raynor to submit a new application, the HDC agreed to attach the letters supporting the designation of an agent to the original file, dated January 12, 2018. In addition, for future applicants to the HDC, Mr. Walker prepared a new application form with a line inserted for the designation of an agent, if applicable. Adam Kossayda, attorney for Mr. Raynor, submitted a notarized letter that he had submitted to Si Little on May 7, 2018. The HDC agreed to enter it into the file. Tom Weller then moved to accept the application with attorneys’ and Mr. Miller’s letters as attachments. Scott Oliver seconded. All voted in favor.
Issue 2: Moving and demolishing of historical buildings – HDC request for technical assistance
Doug Walker reread the motion of April 17 establishing the need for HDC assistance from state preservation agencies. He noted the receipt of letters from Andrew Cushing, Field Services Representative of New Preservation Alliance, and Meghan Rupnik, State Survey Coordinator for the NH Division of Historical Resources. Mr. Walker also cited receipt of a letter from Erin Hammerstedt of Historic Harrisville urging denial of the application. He noted that all agencies had received copies of Mr. Raynor’s proposal and drawings. In the letters and in phone conversations between Mr. Walker and the state preservation agencies, the HDC was urged to refer to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation of historic properties, to consider the significance of Harrisville as a National Landmark District, and to consider the impact of the proposal to its integrity.
Mr. Walker also read an excerpt from Ms. Rupnik’s letter: “The Harrisville Historic District Commission’s Guidelines for Property Owners specifically incorporates the Standards for Rehabilitation,a subsection of the above-referenced Standards. Among other things, these standards state that the distinguishing original qualities or character of a building and its environment should not be destroyed. New uses of a building should require minimal change to its defining characteristics, its site and its environment.”
A lengthy discussion ensued, following questioning from Mr. Kossayda about the specific status of 3 Main Street, whether there was official evidence of the structure’s listing on the National Historic Register as a landmark, or whether its status was as a contributing element only. Mr. Kossayda stated that the property was not included on his copy of listed buildings. Ms. Hammerstedt pointed to “the continuation sheets” which denoted the property owners at the time the register was created and which included the then-owner of 3 Main Street. She stated that the property is listed in the National Historic Register and at the level of National Historic Landmark. Rob Miller stated that information about the house’s listing contradicted his knowledge of the property’s history according to his family as well as information from the April 10 meeting. Mr. Raynor clarified that he understands the property may lie within the historic district but that the house itself is not a National Historic Landmark. Further discussion focused on the difference between National Landmark designation, historic district designation, and contributing and non-contributing factors and the weight accorded to each. It also included debate regarding a property designation versus a building designation.
Mr. Kossayda suggested that the standards cited in Ms. Runik’s letter would apply to a structure that is specifically listed and that, in and of itself, was historic, not to all houses within a historic district. Ms. Hammerstedt responded citing language from the letter from NH Division of Historical Resources that “Contributing properties to the district include…approximately 35 wood framed buildings built between 1850 and 1900 with minimal alteration” and that 3 Main Street fits within this grouping. Mr. Kossayda agreed it was a contributing factor. He added that he believes Ms. Rupnik was applying the wrong standards, new standards that the HDC had not adopted, and that the HDC is bound by its 1969 guidelines. He further cited language from the HDC guidelines stating that “alterations and additions to existing properties shall not be discouraged when such alterations and additions do not disturb the significant historical, architectural and cultural meaning.” He added that the Board had reviewed these factors on April 10. The Board nevertheless accepted, based on the information from the two stage agencies and from Historic Harrisville, that the building has historical significance within the landmark district.
Angled wood shed–Review the historical significance of this structure in light of video footage of the site.
The board discussed the footage and photos provided by Mr. Raynor showing that construction had occurred using materials from the 1980s and 1990s. The board also reviewed building permit information from that time, determining that the foundation of the ell had been replaced, along with the structure, and the roof, and finding that no original fabric of that section of the house remains. Most members agreed it had lost its historical significance, though Kathy Scott commented that its footprint dated from 1902 and that the HDC, in reviewing the work from the 1980s and 1990s, must have felt it important to keep that section. Mr. Walker noted that, if the board determined its’s not historically significant, then it’s allowing for its demolition.
A lengthy discussion followed about the role of the building as a whole within the village, within the landscape and streetscape, and what it represents about the agrarian era in which it was originally built. Further discussion involved the difference between character and integrity as they relate to historic preservation, and the goal of the HDC in its treatment of Mr. Raynor’s proposal. Kathy Scott acknowledged that, initially, the board considered the application from the vantage point of keeping the house looking historic but that review of the regulations and standards called their attention to their role in preserving the historical importance of the district. Mr. Raynor expressed concern about the board’s rethinking of the standards and the subjective nature of this goal. Upon further discussion, Mr. Walker determined that the board should not decide on the matter of demolition at this time, but should review Mr. Raynor’s proposal as a whole.
Design concepts considered
Mr. Raynor submitted an alternate concept as a response to the concerns expressed by the board on April 17. The new proposal puts the garage to the left side of the house and further back, keeping the house much more prominent. The board and public reviewed the concept and drawings. Asked whether they had considered an infill addition to connect the house to the barn, rather than relocating the house, Mr. Raynor responded that they had but the proposal would require much more square footage than they desire and significantly more new construction.
Conversation turned to the issue of spatial relationships, with Doug Walker stating he believed moving the building would disrupt the relationship of the different sections of the house and of the house to the other structures on the property. He added he felt an infill addition would be more in keeping with the New England vernacular and that buildings shouldn’t be moved unless they’re being saved, not for lifestyle reasons. Mr. Miller offered that Mr. Raynor may be able to meet that standard of the building’s need to be saved. Mr. Kossayda returned to the board’s application of different standards and also to the unanimous decision of the board on April 10 to approve the relocation. Mr. Walker reviewed the HDC’s need to consult representatives from the state agencies given the complicated process and the unprecedented nature of the issues before the board. Asking his board for their perspectives, all except Mr. Oliver stated their first preference was for buildings not to be moved, despite how they voted on April 10. Mr. Oliver noted that this is supposed to be a livable community, that the roads have changed, making the location of older homes unsafe, and that other houses in the district could be lost or could fall into disrepair and that the Raynors would take great care to improve the property. Kathy Scott stated she would like to see more design work exploring ideas that don’t involve moving the building or that would involve less of a severe move.
Doug Walker referred again to standard #2 in the 1969 guidelines, believing the argument against moving the building could rest solely on this: “the removal or alteration of any historic material or distinctive architectural features should be avoided wherever possible,” to which Mr. Miller responded that adhering to the language was still possible while also allowing for the house’s relocation. He asked the board to allow the applicant to submit engineering reports to prove they can meet the relocation standard. Mr. Kossayda followed, stating the issue can’t be revoted given its prior approval, that his client relied on the vote, and that the board is changing the game and the rules, making them up as it goes.
Mr. Raynor asked what specifically changed the board’s mind. Mr. Walker replied the standards applied to National Landmark Districts, Harrisville being just one of three in the state, including that moving buildings should only be done as a last resort, to save them, and the needed reliance on outside consultation. Mr. Raynor stated he felt there was a breach in the process, that they have done all they can do to comply the rules and procedures of the HDC and that these haven’t been clear.
Residents spoke further to the importance of preserving the character of the district and adhering to the standards of National Landmark Districts, while the point was raised that applying too strict standards makes maintaining houses exceedingly difficult, risking their deterioration, and that the property is a work in progress. Mr. Kossayda read from RSA 674:45 on the purpose of districts, noting they are to preserve property values, foster civic duties, strengthen the local economy and promote the use of historic districts for the education and welfare of citizens, adding that the HDC is charged with more than asking if buildings are spatially related to one another.
The board noted the vote of April 10 approving relocation was subject to conditions to which the applicant requested to hear those conditions. None were given other than the response that the initial approval was “pending final design.” Mr. Miller suggested that, procedurally, any motion should be to overturn the April 10 decision if the board feels that way. Mr. Kossayda referred to the situation of municipal estoppel and detrimental reliance, stating the board was applying new and additional requirements not based on municipal zoning regulations, while also reneging on its vote.
At 9:42 pm, in order to draft a motion, the board voted unanimously to enter into Executive Session and attendees left the room. At 10:21 pm, the Board moved out of Executive Session and members of the public returned to the meeting room. Mr. Walker called for the motion, which was read as follows:
Kathy Scott moved that, referring to Article 11.2.2 of the Harrisville Zoning Ordinances and the HDC Guidelines adopted 1969, and applying the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation, the HDC hereby amends its decision of April 10, 2018 to disallow the relocation of the house and buildings at 3 Main Street, unless there is no feasible alternative for preservation in their original location. In addition, the HDC moves to allow the demolition of the angled ell to enable a reasonable structural infill that is designed to be sympathetic to the form, massing and scale of the existing structures.Noel Greiner seconded. Following discussion, the vote was 5-1 in favor with Scott Oliver opposed, based on reasoning stated above that the building should be moved.
Adam Kossayda noted his client’s objection to the revote of an issue that had been decided, stating it would be taken up with the ZBA.
As there was no new business, the meeting adjourned at 10:30 pm.