After two hours of testimony and public comments, the Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals voted last night to continue a hearing to raze the Elm Arch Inn until July 24.
At the beginning of the hearing, board chairman David J. Haddad told the packed audience to focus their comments on the zoning bylaws and that he would not accept testimony based on the historic nature of the property.
Falmouth condominium developer David Wald is looking to demolish the Elm Arch Inn, built in 1812, and build six condominiums on the site. The building is not located within Falmouth’s historic district, but is on the town’s list of significant buildings, therefore subject to a six-month demolition delay. Mr. Wald was before the zoning board to seek a permit to build family units in a residential zone.
Despite the chairman’s warning that he would suppress historical significance testimony, most of the comments concerned exactly that.
“This is the fifth historic building in 10 months and we’re not allowed to discuss that here, or in front of the planning board, or with the historic districts commission. Where do we get to talk about it?” asked Lee M. Drescher, Associates Road, as Mr. Haddad was trying to stop her testimony.
Marjolijn R. Elmhurst of Elm Arch Way asked where residents can express concerns over the project’s visual impact.
Board member Matthew J. McNamara said the zoning board will consider visual impact and vistas.
“I am afraid of what our neighborhood will look like. I implore you to consider what this is doing to our neighborhood,” Ms. Elmhurst said.
Donald Peters of Elm Arch Way called the project a “monstrosity” and the proposed wall separating the units with a neighbor “the great wall of China.”
Others in the audience did have comments on the site plan review.
Sarah Peters of Elm Arch Way said that she was concerned that her quiet neighborhood would experience a flood of traffic because of the 18 parking spots.
“I used to let my children ride their bikes to school past the inn. I couldn’t do that with 18 new parking spots and no sidewalk,” she said. Last year, the Falmouth Zoning Board approved condo units across the street from the Elm Arch Inn, which added 12 new parking spots.
Another point of contention stemmed from whether the proposed project is considered a “rebuild” or a “change.” According to David Wald’s representative, Stephen O. McKenzie, the law allows for a nonconforming structure change, but not a rebuilt structure. Mr. McNamara questioned the nature of the project, suggesting that it is in fact rebuilding a structure and therefore would not be allowed.
“In the history of this town, this type of project had been approved under this bylaw many, many times,” Mr. McKenzie said.
Mr. McNamara asked Mr. McKenzie to supply more legal analysis to the board before the July 24.