Falmouth Commission Seeks Proof Of Outbuilding's Age

The Historic Districts Commission on July 1 continued its hearing on a plan to demolish a section of the Elm Arch Inn another month, after the developer failed to provide information on the history of an outlying building on the grounds of the property.

“The records simply don’t exist in Falmouth,” said Stephen O. McKenzie, the representative of developer David Wald, who plans to build condominiums on the site. “No one seems to know when this building was constructed.”

The outlying building is within the Main Street historic district. It is a smaller building compared to the main inn. Mr. Wald hopes to demolish it as well as the historic Elm Arch Inn, which is outside of the Main Street historic district and the jurisdiction of the commission, but on the historical commission’s list of significant buildings.

Prior to the Tuesday meeting, members of the commission asked Mr. McKenzie to provide evidence to support his claim that the outlying building was not historically significant and that it was constructed after the Elm Arch Inn was built. At last month’s hearing, chairman of the commission Edward J. Haddad said the significance of the property would play in the commission’s decision on whether to allow the demolition of the building.

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Mr. McKenzie said the outlying building was at least 60 years old. He looked at aerial footage of the area dating back to the 1950s and said the outlying building was there in the oldest photographs. The town did not have records of aerial footage before the 1950s, he said.

He told members of the commission that he could not find other records in Falmouth of the outlying building, including tax records and insurance records nor could he provide information based on research at the Falmouth Historical Society. He said the building was most likely constructed without a permit, as was common in prior years.

Mr. Haddad asked Mr. McKenzie to provide two letters to the commission prior to their next meeting on August 5, a written statement from the current owners of the property with their opinion of the age of the outlying building and a written estimate from a certified architect on the age of the building, based on the building’s construction.

Mr. Haddad said if Mr. McKenzie had provided information that was asked for, they could have made a decision. He said that he did not mean to question Mr. McKenzie’s credibility, but the evidence provided Tuesday was “hearsay.”

Nancy A. Hayward of Chase Road, West Falmouth, said also that she could not find documents that noted the age of the building, but said that the building was at least 60 years old.

Commission member Nicole Goldman requested that a condition be made to preserve the Elm Arch Inn sign on Main Street if the commission did approve the applicant’s request. Mr. Haddad agreed and said that they would iron out the details of the condition on a later date. Ms. Goldman said the sign is stationed within the historic district and that it is an “iconic” sign to that area. The new owners of the property should keep it maintained, she said.

Commission member Tamsen E. George said that it might be confusing to keep the sign installed if there was no inn. An arrow points to the inn now. She agreed that it was significant enough to maintain and suggested that a note saying the Elm Arch Inn used to sit there should be added.

Mr. Haddad also made a condition that a lightpost on the Elm Arch Inn grounds and in the historic district remain at the site if the inn were torn down. 

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