A plan to demolish the Elm Arch Inn and build condominium units on Elm Arch Way met with strong opposition when the developers presented their plans this week to the Falmouth Historic Districts Commission and the planning board.
David Wald and his representative, Stephen O. McKenzie, presented their plans to both the boards on Tuesday.
As he would repeat several times over the course of the hearing, chairman of the historic districts commission Edward J. Haddad stressed to the audience that the hearing was not about the demolition of the Elm Arch Inn.
“We are not here to talk about any change, demolition or use of the Elm Arch Inn itself,” Mr. Haddad said. A small, outlying building that sits partly in the historic district on the inn property is in the purview of the commission, and the audience was directed to keep its comments limited to that.
“Where will the inn go?” said J. Malcolm Donald, a member of the historical commission.
The demolition of the inn should be dealt with through other boards, Mr. Haddad responded, particularly the historical commission.
“I don’t care if one inch of that is in your jurisdiction. We should not destroy Falmouth,” said Stamen P. Zlatev, of Jericho Path, Falmouth. “Whatever is in your jurisdiction, do not allow it to be destroyed.”
Mr. Wald hopes to demolish this small outlying building on Elm Arch Way, as well as the Elm Arch Inn, and place three condominiums with six units and 18 parking spaces in that vacated space.
Mr. Wald said the owner of the inn, Florence M. Richardson, is in a nursing home and her son owns legal rights to the inn.
The three condominium buildings, with six units in total, would be “slid” to the south and out of the Main Street historic district, Mr. McKenzie said.
Commission members decided to continue the hearing until a later date. They requested that the developer confirm the age of this outlying building as best they could and to confirm it was not part of the original inn.
Mr. McKenzie said the outlying building was not part of the original inn but built sometime close to 1950. He did not present documentation of that to the commission.
Commission members asked him to seek out aerial photographs, speak with the owner of the inn or complete an architectural test to confirm its age.
“I don’t care if the building was in the front or the back of the property,” Mr. Haddad said. “We need confirmation.” He said that he walked the grounds of the property and while the outlying building did not seem significant, it could have been something similar to a slave quarters or a kitchen for the original hotel.
An hour later that night, developers were in front of the planning board, which offered little reassurance to those concerned with the demolition of the inn. Chairman of the board, Patricia H. Kerfoot said the zoning board meeting on June 19 was the time to discuss historical significance. The planning board would consider strictly the site plan review, she said.
Barbara M. Weyand, Westmoreland Drive, West Falmouth, said she had come from the historic districts commission meeting, where they were advised not to discuss the demolition of the inn.
“What I find confusing, when you read the Mass General Law that describes the historical commission in each town, it specifies that the historical commission will advise groups in each particular area,” Ms. Weyand said. “That would mean that you should expect to hear from the historical commission at the planning board, the ZBA, selectmen, conservation commission—they should all receive advice from the historical commission as to historical merit.”
Ms. Weyand said that there seemed to be a misunderstanding between the boards. Ms. Kerfoot said that perhaps there was.
“If you represent us the people, whatever your authorities are in respect to this project, I wish that you will not consider surrendering this building,” Mr. Zlatev said. He asked if removing the 200-year-old building for condominiums would make Falmouth better. “I am asking you, whatever authority you have, to not vote for them, but to vote for us.”
“I am appalled with what is happening in this town,” said Lee M. Drescher, Associates Road, West Falmouth. “You are building a big Marriott hotel and taking away someone’s street. I think the planning board should consider what they are doing to the Town of Falmouth,” she said with repeated attempts from Ms. Kerfoot to keep the discussion to site plan review.
Others in the audience did have comments on the site plan review. Donald B. Peterson, Elm Arch Way, wondered if it was legal to have 18 parking spaces as displayed in the designs. He noted that only a minimal amount of landscaping divided the parking spaces. “It looks like a mall,” someone said in the audience, in regard to parking.
Town planner Brian V. Currie said that they will look into the issue. He said that there has been a request from Falmouth Fire and Rescue to put a fire hydrant in the area, and that the town engineer has had concerns over the drainage. “We will probably be looking at this again,” Mr. Currie said.
Sarah Peters, an abutter on Elm Arch Way, said that she was concerned that her quiet neighborhood would experience a flood of traffic because of these 18 parking spots. “If you think this will not have an impact on the neighborhood, I urge you to rethink that.”
Mr. Donald said that tourists who look for parking spots on Main Street will see the empty spots on Elm Arch Way and congest the road.
The board decided to continue the hearing.
The developers will present plans to the Zoning board of appeals on June 19 ,where there is expected to be more backlash.