Bluffton resident seeks town money to help relocate the Graves House

dburley@islandpacket.comOctober 2, 2013 

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The Graves House on Calhoun Street in Bluffton's Historic District.

FILE — Staff photo Buy Photo

A Bluffton resident who wants to relocate the historic Graves House to property he owns wants the town to help pay for the move.

Garfield Moss told the Historic Preservation Committee on Wednesday he still wants to move the century-old home to a site near the corner of Lawrence and Wharf streets, but said costs were rising.

"When we got involved here, we were under the impression that this would be a quick fix," Moss said during the meeting. "But this is beginning to be more than we bargained for. We still want to do it, but we need help. If the house falls apart, we're the ones who lose the money."

Moss said he paid an engineer $8,000 to map the relocation. He provided no other specifics on the estimated cost of the move.

Town Councilman Ted Huffman, who was among those attending the meeting, said he supports the move, and said funding the relocation was "possibly something the council could discuss."

"I, along with everyone else, would love to have the house preserved," Huffman said. "So maybe the town could pony up. It's an Olympic effort here."

The committee, which doesn't have the power to disperse town funds, also supported the relocation.

Some wondered, though, if the deteriorating condition of the house would make the move more difficult.

"I'm a business owner on Calhoun Street. What if the house falls apart in front of my store?" said committee vice-chairman Chris Epps.

In July, Moss proposed subdividing his property into four lots, with an existing home and three new ones, including the Graves house.

His plan also called for a public road connecting Lawrence Street with an existing auxiliary road.

On Wednesday, Moss said the unexpected costs of the relocation are causing him to think twice about what he does with the land.

"I could build two houses on the lot for what I'd spent on this home," he said. "It comes down to whether it's cost feasible."

The Bluffton United Methodist Church purchased the home last summer and has been in talks with Moss on relocating it, said William Court, a local architect and the church's chairman of long-term planning.

The commission voted in May 2012 -- over objections from the town's planning staff -- to allow the church to demolish the house despite the fact that it is a contributing structure in the historic district.

The house had sat vacant for at least two years at that point and had structural flaws.

"The church is actively supporting Mr. Moss in helping him relocate the cottage to keep it intact," Court said Wednesday.

Court said Moss has contacted a number of movers with experience relocating historic homes.

The church's role in financing or planning the relocation have also not been determined, Court said.

"At some point the church will have to sell Garfield the building, but we're just not there yet, he said.

The church bought the property to use for offices and community meeting rooms, Court said.

If the building is not relocated, the church has proposed dismantling it and reusing as much material as possible to rebuild a near-replica, he said.

A specific relocation plan hasn't been ironed out yet, said Shawn Leininger, town planning and community development manager.

Leininger said he hopes to have a formal plan to present at the committee's November meeting.

Follow reporter Dan Burley on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Dan.

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