Moving forward with goals the Town Council established for the Master Plan Implementation Committee last month, members plan to meet with local farmers to discuss agri-tourism in town and consult with local developers about preserving historic homes.
Elected chairman of the committee at their July 23 meeting, Deb Paul, who is also publisher of the Londonderry Times, drew attention to the need for greater support for people who choose to invest in preserving historic properties in town.
For example, a Victorian home on Mammoth Road that is up for sale is zoned commercial, with no preservation easement, Paul noted.
“They could just rip that building down, and there goes another piece of Londonderry. Properties like that, at major intersections that were old farms – we don’t want to lose them,” she said.
Local developer Richard Flier, who plans to serve the committee in an advisory capacity, also emphasized the importance of helping those who are interested in preserving historic Londonderry homes, noting the challenges he faced while renovating the Naylor House on Pillsbury Road near the Town Common.
GIS (Geographic Information Systems) Manager John Vogl noted that Heritage Commissioner David Colglazier has proposed legislation that would offer tax breaks for the restoration of historic homes.
Flier said if the bill included a provision making it retroactive, perhaps it would help save historic homes in Londonderry at risk of collapsing.
“Some people might take a risk if they thought they could get a break. If we would have had this rebate, we could have (renovated the Naylor House) seven months earlier, and it would have cost us so much less,” he said. “Every year you wait, we were within nine months to a year of a building collapsing. Some are condemnable. There are barns falling over.”
While restoring the Naylor House, Flier and his contractors discovered the foundation had disappeared under a quarter of the house.
“The foundation was caving in,” he said. “The house was just days before falling over. We had to have someone rush over from the Town. If there was someone we could have cooperated with, we could have done it at reasonable cost that would have made it more feasible.”
Flier additionally advocated for a group to provide support to developers and private residential owners working to restore historic homes in town.
“Look how fast UPS went up. We had unnecessary interference – things that caused all kinds of unnecessary relapses with the property. If we had had a group to rally that was concerned about older buildings being preserved, that would have been worth its weight in gold,” he said.
Newly elected Vice Chairman Chris Davies suggested Flier consult with the group to develop recommendations for the Town to better support restoration efforts in Londonderry, so that when they come across things that are time sensitive, such as a deteriorating foundation, they can be addressed in a timely manner.
Flier said it would be valuable for the Town to have an active committee dealing with preservation in town, whose members could listen and help people with the permitting process.
“Preservation is for all of us,” he said, noting such projects help maintain the character of the Town. “If these buildings are waiting month after month, and a project gets tabled for months and months, it’s devastating for these buildings. They can’t wait three and four months. Even the carpenter ants are going faster than these committees.”
Over the next couple months, Paul and member Tammy Siekmann also plan to speak with local farm owners to determine ways they can help support and encourage agri-tourism in Town, as recommended by the Council.