While Falmouth Residents Protest, Demolition Of Inn Faces Delays

Nancy Hayward addresses the planning board urging them to consider historical significance in their site plan review. Developer David Wald looks on along with his attorney Jeff Nickerson, foreground, and representative Steven McKenzie.
SAM HOUGHTON/ENTERPRISE - Nancy Hayward addresses the planning board urging them to consider historical significance in their site plan review. Developer David Wald looks on along with his attorney Jeff Nickerson, foreground, and representative Steven McKenzie.

Another board has prolonged a decision on demolition of the Elm Arch Inn. This time it was the Falmouth Planning Board, whose members on Tuesday, July 8, said the developer submitted site plans that were too vague for them to make a decision.

Also on Tuesday, Ann L. Sears of Locust Street urged the board to apply for a referral with the Cape Cod Commission. Attorneys for David Wald, the developer who is proposing to demolish the inn and build condominiums, protested the idea because it exceeded the bounds of commission review and because Falmouth has a demolition delay bylaw.

Members of the board asked Mr. Wald to submit a more detailed landscape plan, a plot plan with exact dimensions, and that he apply for an extension on his application.

The project will be on the planning board’s agenda when it meets next on July 22. Board chairman Patricia H. Kerfoot said that members of the board at that time will only vote to accept the extension, not discuss the application.

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Mr. Wald is proposing to demolish the inn on Elm Arch Way, which lies partly outside of the Main Street historic district, in order to build six condominium units in three separate structures. Mr. Wald has met with the Falmouth Historic Districts Commission and the Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals, both of which have yet to make a decision.

“The hindsight of my properties are that they are lovely and they win awards,” Mr. Wald said. Mr. Wald has developed other condominiums in Falmouth. He said that his Elm Arch condominium project would enhance the appearance of the small street and even raise the value of the neighbors’ properties. “These are nice, wood shingle, Capes,” he said of the development. When he built the Inn on the Square on North Main Street, he said he turned what was a dead area into a thriving place, and expects to do the same for Elm Arch Way.

After a planning board meeting last month, representatives for Mr. Wald, Stephen O. McKenzie and Michael J. Borselli, submitted new plans to the planning department that they thought would ease concerns of members of the board. The three buildings were drawn to be set farther back from the road and each building would have individual parking spots. Trees and other landscaping were shown to break up the parking spots.

Ms. Sears said the building existed at the time of the War of 1812 and should be preserved for historical purposes, not just for Falmouth but for the region. While the planning board did not consider historical significance within its site plan review, the Cape Cod Commission could, she said. She worked with a group to save Highfield Hall from demolition and with the help of a development of regional impact review from the commission, they were able to preserve Highfield.

Ms. Sears said that she spoke with Sarah P. Korjeff, a planner and historic preservation specialist with the commission, who informed her that only a permit granting authority, such as the planning board, zoning board of appeals, or board of selectmen, may make a referral to the commission, not an individual. She said that approaching the commission now, while the developer was still in the site plan review stages, before the developer spent more money on the project, would be good timing,

Members of the board on July 8 did not discuss approaching the commission.

Geoffrey S. Nickerson, an attorney for Mr. Wald, said a referral to the Cape Cod Commission was not appropriate. A development of regional impact, he said, looks at the magnitude and the impact a development would have on the natural and built environments and when the development affects more than one municipality in an area.

Laura M. Moynihan, another attorney for Mr. Wald, said that since Highfield Hall was preserved, Falmouth has adopted a demolition delay bylaw. She said the bylaw is a local procedure to save historically significant buildings. Mr. Wald, she said, has yet to apply for a permit that triggers the demolition delay and said that it would therefore be unfair if the board were to  approached the commission now.

Nancy A. Hayward of Chase Road, West Falmouth, and a member of the historical commission, said that she has asked why the historical commission acted as a referral to the planning board, along with other town departments such as Falmouth Fire Rescue, when the board is not considering historic significance in the site plan review. She suggested the board take the historical commission off its referral checklist.

In a lighter moment at the meeting, Mr. Wald suggested the historic inn be moved to be incorporated into the Marriott Hotel proposed for a section of Main Street, east of Elm Arch Way.

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