ORLEANS — The development team for the proposed F. W. Webb facility on Route 6A was ready for a show and tell, complete with posterboard-mounted plans and drawings for a new 32,00-square-foot warehouse and sales building at the site of the currently vacant Underground Mall. Then the chairman of the Old King’s Highway Regional Historic District Committee made it clear that the Feb. 6 preliminary review would be all tell and no show.
“What we can’t do here, because of the Open Meeting Law, (is that) we can’t review your prints,” Ron Mgrdichian told four representatives of the project, including architect Scott Richardson. “They cannot be (addressed) until we have advertised (a formal public hearing) and all abutters have been notified. We have to strictly adhere to that. If we don’t, appeals can be filed.”
“I’ve had many many informal meetings with many boards over the years,” Richardson said later that night. “We always discussed (things) on a preliminary basis. This is the first I’ve heard that we can’t talk about a project informally, what we’re doing, why we think it’s a good project, and do you have any comments. (Then we’re) a little better prepared for the formal submission.”
“The Old King’s Highway is very strict in that area,” Mgrdichian replied. “We have an official attorney in the (OKH regional) office in Barnstable. I make a point if we get into some area that’s a little bit unusual to discuss it with him. What I’m telling you is exactly how they interpret this.”
“There is an item on the agenda for this property,” member Richard Weeks asked the chairman. “What’s it on the agenda for?”
“These folks asked for a preliminary,” said Mgrdichian. “I could not deny them. I had to make sure they understood the guidelines we adhere to.”
At the outset, the chairman said that people “misunderstand what we can do and what we cannot do in a preliminary hearing.” In this case, he noted two separate issues for the committee: a certificate of demolition to take down the old Underground Mall and a certificate of appropriateness for a new building. “They’re two separate issues and will not be discussed as a combination,” he said.
“We look at strictly the outside, the design, the architecture, coloring, windows, et cetera,” Mgrdichian said of building proposals. “It needs to blend in with the structures that are there now… as you go into Nell’s Way.”
Once a formal public hearing with notification to abutters is held, the committee votes on the demolition request, which can be appealed. A separate hearing about the appropriateness of the new building follows. The committee’s next meeting will be March 5.
“Sorry to see all of you here,” Mgrdichian told the development team, “(but) I think you’re getting a little bit of flavor that’s very important.”
Bedford-based F. W. Webb, with more than 80 locations in nine states, plans to open a store just off Route 6’s Exit 12 that would offer wholesale merchandise to contractors and a retail showroom for homeowners doing improvement projects. Not far away on Main Street is Mid-Cape Home Centers, whose slogan is “Everything for building, remodeling, and home improvement since 1895.” That’s the year, according to the company’s website, that Captain Oscar Nickerson gave up command of his schooner and bought Kelley and Eldredge Lumber Company in Chatham, which became Nickerson Lumber Company and then Mid-Cape. In 2012, it was sold to Jeff Plank, the first non-Nickerson to lead the business.
In addition to its Orleans store, Mid-Cape has locations in Wellfleet, South Dennis, and Falmouth and off-Cape on Martha’s Vineyard and in Middleboro. By press time, President Jack Stevenson had not replied to an emailed request for comment.