Thursday, June 14, 2007

Chapel Hill preservation news

Ruins of the Dey House, December 2006

A house on Pine Lane designed by Jim Webb, one of the best of Chapel Hill's modernist architects, was recently demolished. On what was originally two lots, the lots are being marketed separately, by Tony Hall & Associates, as sites for proposed houses of around 4,000 sq. ft. each: see sketches for 104 Pine Lane and 106 Pine Lane. The name of the developer is not given.

Although Pine Lane, a dead-end street off Laurel Hill, is adjacent to the National Register Rocky Ridge Farm Historic District, it is not in the historic district. At the time that district was created in the 1980s, the houses on Pine Lane were less than 50 years old. According to Robert Stipe, a neighbor, as of last fall a survey that proposed expansion of the district had been completed and submitted to the State Historic Preservation Office; the survey was done by Ruth Little, author of The Town and Gown Architecture of Chapel Hill; and the house that was demolished was one of the proposed "contributing structures."

If the expanded historic district had been approved by now, the house might still have been town down, but the town's Historic District Commission at least could have imposed a delay of up to one year to encourage a sympathetic buyer.

Ernest Dollar, executive director of the Preservation Society of Chapel Hill, came to Council on June 11 to propose a new ordinance to slow down teardowns. It's modeled on one in Apex. Under its terms, if you tear down an existing home that is identified as historic (and it could be listed on a survey of historic sites that's not limited to historic districts per se), and if you are proposing to replace it with something other than a single-family residence (for example a duplex or a condo), then you have to wait four years. It wouldn't have affected this teardown, but it would be a good measure of discouragement of others.

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