HARWICH — The historic district and historical commission has imposed a one-year demolition delay on the demolition of the historic structure located to the west side of Holy Trinity Church grounds in West Harwich.
The Victorian-style house was constructed in 1914 and has been used as a rectory and more recently as the church’s thrift shop, but it has been vacant for the past five years. Spokesperson for the diocese of Fall River, Joseph Nolan, a West Harwich resident, has said the building has cracked beams, making it unsound, as well septic issues. The church does not have the funds to provide the upgrade and instead is proposing to demolish the building and plant grass on the land.
During the initial commission hearing on the notice of intent under the town’s demolition delay bylaw, commission members said the building was in good shape and suggested it might be of use to the town’s affordable housing trust for additional housing.
Nolan made it clear the diocese would sell the building for $1, but it would have to be removed from its present location. In a letter to the trust, he said the church would contribute $20,000 to the relocation of the structure, the cost of demolishing the building.
In the initial hearing residents spoke out against demolition. Neighbor Lenny Kalbach, an electrician, said he has worked on the building and it is in great shape. Other neighbors spoke against removal of the century-old historic structure located along a stretch of Route 28 where many other antique homes are located.
The commission continued the first hearing while Nolan reached out to the affordable housing trust to see if it had interest in relocating the building. In a subsequent meeting the trust determined it would need time to examine the building and research costs associated with moving the structure and establishing housing units within the building.
The commission last week reopened the hearing, noting that the representative for the diocese would not be present. Commission chair Mary Maslowski said she had received an email from Nolan explaining he has offered the building to the trust and it is also available to anyone with an interest in relocating it.
Maslowski said no deals on the building have been finalized. The church asked that the commission make a decision that evening on the delay.
Kalbach wanted to know the process moving forward. Maslowski said if the commission votes to impose the delay the church would have to wait one year before getting a permit to demolish the structure. The delay provides time to see if something can be worked out to save the structure. There would be no more meetings on the subject unless an agreement is worked out with the trust or someone wants to buy it and relocate it before the delay period is over.
“It’s a beautiful piece of property and needs to be saved,” Kalbach said.
Abutter Dan Goodin said the church has no interest in historic preservation and saving the property. “That’s their prerogative and I understand that,” Goodin said, adding that he has reached out to the Bishop of Fall River, deacon John Foley and the priest at the church to see if they would make a deal with the condominium complex he lives in next door, but he has had no response.
“I’m hoping they’re making a good faith effort,” Goodin said.
Maslowski said the church has reached out to the trust, but they are not ready to finalize a transaction.
The commission voted unanimously to impose the one-year delay.
“If something can be worked to save the building, we’ll work with that, otherwise they will not be able to access a demolition permit for a year,” Maslowski said.