The Cape Cod Commission voted Thursday, August 7, to accept a limited discretionary referral of plans to demolish the Elm Arch Inn. The project had been referred to the commission by the Falmouth Historical Commission.
Following last Thursday’s vote, Cape Cod Commission staff will study the Elm Arch Inn project to assist both the town and the developer, David Wald, on how to best move forward with the project.
Only two commission members voted against the proposal, Wellfleet representative Roger Putnam and Chatham’s Michael Skelley. Both argued that the commission should not interfere with Falmouth’s government.
Falmouth’s representatives Andrew V.W. Putnam and county commissioner Mary (Pat) Flynn both voted in favor of accepting the request.
Mr. Putnam said that there are only two other buildings in Falmouth that have evidence of cannon fire from the Battle of Falmouth. He said that Falmouth is proud of its history and that paintings throughout town have memorialized the battle. He recalled a proud moment with his father watching a reenactment of the battle.
Ms. Flynn recalled sitting in a Falmouth Board of Selectmen’s hearing in 1994 in which she urged the board to consider a review with the commission in order to preserve Highfield Hall. The sister of Highfield Hall, Tanglewood, she said, had recently been torn down. “We now have Historic Highfield,” she said, after selectmen sought the guidance of the Cape Cod Commission.
Mr. Wald was not present for the hearing. Following the meeting, Stephen O. McKenzie, who represented Mr. Wald at the hearing, said “Obviously, he will be disappointed.”
Mr. McKenzie said Mr. Wald is likely to continue to pursue the project on Elm Arch Way. He has considered keeping the main section of the inn with two structures built on either side of the building for residential purposes. Mr. McKenzie said that Mr. Wald has also offered to help fund the relocation of the historic inn.
During the hearing, Mr. McKenzie told the commission that the Falmouth Historical Commission was not a regulatory board and therefore, under county commission rules, it did not have the authority to recommend a discretionary review. The planning board, selectmen and zoning boards have the authority.
He also argued that the Cape Cod Commission could not accept the referral because it would not affect other municipalities such as Mashpee or Bourne, another rule for the commission.
Brewster’s representative Elizabeth Taylor argued that there would be a regional effect if the inn was torn down. “We need to really allow towns to come to us comfortably for historic preservation,” she said. Bourne’s representative to the commission, Michael A. Blanton, agreed. “If we do accept the referral, this project could be studied and we could arrive at a mutually effective decision” for the town, the region, and the developer, Mr.
Blanton said. “I think we ought to investigate this.”
Chief regulatory officer to the commission, Jonathan D. Idman, said that the Falmouth Historical Commission did have the authority to request the referral.
Heidi L. Walz, chairman of the Falmouth Historical Commission, said the commission’s vote could “galvanize” the residents of Falmouth to preserve its history. “We have been bleeding out these historically significant properties,” she said, and that the town could not afford to lose another one.
Although there was no allotted time for the public to speak, Ann L. Sears of Locust Street, Sarah D.B. Peters of Elm Arch Way, and Barbara M. Weyand of Westmoreland Drive, attended the hearing. They have spoken out against Mr. Wald’s proposal during past hearings.