Proposal Would Demolish Falmouth Elm Arch Inn
By: CARRIE L. GENTILE, May 30, 2014
Falmouth condominium developer David Wald is looking to raze the Elm Arch Inn, built in 1812, and build six condominiums on the site.
Local planning and zoning boards will meet soon to discuss the site plan review. The planning board is holding a public meeting on Tuesday, June 3, and the zoning board of appeals will conduct a public hearing on the proposal on June 19.
Mr. Wald and the current owner, Florence M. Richardson, signed a purchase and sale agreement for the property at 26 Elm Arch Way, with the final sale contingent on the outcome of the permitting process.
Mr. Wald, of 26 Gerloff Road, submitted plans to the planning board in April for three condominium duplexes, each with two 2,100-square-foot, two-level units on the .59 acre parcel. The design includes parking, new landscaping and a new side fence. He said the complex exterior is in keeping with the local style.
“I kept the design simple, like a traditional Cape-style home,” he said.
His original concept was to convert and redesign the current inn to accommodate condo units, but he said he had to scrap the idea because it would not meet the town’s building codes. Bringing it up to code would be too costly, he said.
“We all love historic buildings, but I can’t do anything with it if it doesn’t meet current building requirements. I expect some opposition to the project, since it does have some historic significance, but the design meets all the town’s bylaws, rules and regulations,” he said.
Some residents, however, feel that this project should not be looked at as a separate incident. “If we continue to look at each of these purchases or demolitions of these historic buildings as isolated instances, then we are missing the point. We need to look at the issue collectively, that this destruction is part of a succession of loss and that we are eradicating our past,” said Barbara M. Weyand, Westmoreland Drive.
During the War of 1812, the British ship Nimrod sailed into Falmouth waters and the captain demanded the town hand over its cannons to them, or face retaliation. The town refused to accede, and the British launched cannonballs for several hours at the town, hitting many homes, including what is now the Elm Arch Inn. At the time, the building was on Main Street. Visitors can still see where the cannonball hit the inn in one of its parlors.
Although the building is not in the town’s historic district, it is on the list of significant buildings maintained by the Falmouth Historical Commission and is therefore subject to the demolition delay bylaw.
Heidi L. Walz, chairman of the Falmouth Historical Commission, said if approved by the town, Mr. Wald would have to meet with the commission under the conditions of the bylaw. He can seek a waiver and if it is denied, any plans for demolition will be delayed for six months from the date of the application for demolition.
“During the open commission meeting, the community is given an opportunity to express concerns and alternative solutions to the physical destruction of our heritage,” Ms. Walz said.
Mr. Wald said, whenever possible, he will preserve bits and pieces of the inn and display them on the new property. His design plans include hanging the inn’s bell on the condo lawn near the entrance.
Over the years, he has developed a handful of condominium properties in Falmouth, including Sippewissett Hills, Marine Park condominiums, and the Inn on the Square, which is now a hotel.