On May 3, the planning board, in a 4-3 vote, approved Muraco’s plan and gave him the green light to raze the farmhouse. The only conditions on this approval are that before destroying the farmhouse, Muraco must develop documentation of it to be included in the Historic American Building Survey (a kind of photo album), and must wait six months to see if some deep-pockets benefactor comes forward with a practicable plan to move the farmhouse at his own expense.
The fact that Muraco is amendable to waiting the six months underscores the disconnect between the demolition and any market-related reason for it.
So, although the farmhouse is identified in the town’s Comprehensive Plan as a significant historic resource due to its listing on both the federal and state registers of historic places; is visible from, and thus contributes to, the Route 20 Scenic Corridor as that corridor frames the village from the east; and the planning board is charged by the Comprehensive Plan with protecting all “historic resources along Route 20 East” — nevertheless: dosvidanya, arrivederci, goodbye and good luck.
And we are all, suddenly, poorer. We are all, suddenly, bereft of something that made our lives more interesting, richer.
Why did it happen?
Why this happened requires a more nuanced explanation — and it is the nuances that matter. The most revealing votes cast by planning board members were those cast reluctantly in favor of demolition by members who saw no legal basis for voting otherwise, or who noted the lack of public outrage.
Planning board members Jennifer Basic, Hugh Roszel, Dale Bowers and Tom Pratt comprised the majority that approved demolition.
Basic, an attorney, voted “yes” to demolition only because she could see no principled legal basis for voting “no.” She noted that the Comprehensive Plan lacks the “teeth” — the specifically worded criteria — that would empower a planning board to preserve historic properties. This is true. Comprehensive plans are by their nature tours of the horizon — abstractly worded documents long on what lawyers call the “hortatory” (good wishes) and short on mandates.