Reasonable end reached on tearing down house

info@islandpacket.comFebruary 2, 2013 

A home on the corner of Beaufort's Monson and Duke streets is being demolished after a city committee and historic foundation relented and allowed the property owner to tear down the crumbling building.

The job probably could have been done with little more than a hard shove; owner Jim Moss contended 90 percent of the home's wood had rotted. And even if that estimate was high, the Historic Beaufort Foundation conceded that the house built in the 1940s was poorly constructed and beyond salvage.

It's puzzling that such consensus was so hard to come by two years ago. That's when Moss first petitioned the city's Historic Review Board for permission to tear down the house, but the foundation opposed its demolition. At issue was whether the home was built in the 1920s or 1940s and whether it could be restored.

Moss renewed his request earlier this month, but the board delayed a decision until the home's historic value could be determined by the foundation.

Make no mistake, the Historic Beaufort Foundation and similar preservation organizations do valuable work. That their efforts have largely enhanced the communities they serve is beyond debate.

However, neither is it debatable that the area near Duke and Monson would be better with that house gone.

In its place, Moss says, will be two-story buildings with commercial space on the ground floors and apartments on the upper -- the very sort of mix-use construction town planners advocate, in no small part because they believe it is compatible with the city's historical environs.

Some areas of the Old Commons neighborhood and many areas of the adjacent Northwest Quadrant grow increasingly blighted because repairing and renovating with historic preservation in mind can be cost prohibitive. That probably wasn't the case with Moss, an attorney and part of a group that purchased the property in 2007 for $206,000. But opposition to tearing down the building proved to be a disincentive to doing anything at all.

It's good that in the end, the owners and the city preservationists worked together to reach a reasonable solution. It bodes well for future attempts to establish equilibrium between preservation, redevelopment and private property rights.

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