Bluffton historical society chairman resigned, but hasn't relinquished power

dburley@islandpacket.comFebruary 4, 2014 

maxim

This cottage at 51 Colcock St. in Bluffton was a point of disagreement between former chairman Nick Maxim and the Bluffton Historical Preservation Society. Maxim voted in October to demolish the 750-square-foot home.

DAN BURLEY — Dan Burley Buy Photo

  • IF YOU GO

    The Bluffton Historic Preservation Commission will meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Town Hall, 20 Bridge St.

Despite resigning last month, a former chairman of the Bluffton Historical Preservation Society continued to hold a seat on a town panel reserved for the society's designee, according to town officials.

Now, some of the society's board members are insisting Nick Maxim relinquish his spot on the town of Bluffton's Historic Preservation Commission before its meeting Wednesday at Town Hall.

"He is not a representative of our society and board, so he cannot represent us," historical society executive director Maureen Richards said Tuesday. "Who is going to hold him accountable?"

Town of Bluffton officials say they're unsure whether Maxim can continue to serve on the commission.

Maxim resigned as the society's chairman at its Jan. 8 meeting, according to an email sent that day to board members by interim chairman Emmett McCracken.

But later that evening and again Jan. 10, Maxim represented the society on the town commission, according to town documents. The commission makes recommendations about changes to structures and new construction in historic Old Town, among other things.

Attempts Tuesday to reach Maxim for comment were unsuccessful. Maxim owns Arkbuilt, a contracting firm based in Bluffton, according to its website.

Board members say Maxim's resignation from the group was not controversial.

"It was his personal feeling," McCracken said.

However, society meeting minutes indicate discontent was brewing over Maxim's votes on the commission.

The society, a nonprofit organization that, in part, seeks to maintain historic buildings and sites, called a meeting last month to "address concerns" about Maxim's "diligence in representing the board's concerns" as the liaison to the town commission, according to the agenda.

One concern listed was his vote to allow demolition of the Graves House, a century-old property on the corner of Lawrence and Wharf streets. The commission considered a proposal in May 2012 that the structure be razed for new construction.

A month before, the society's board members unanimously voted to ask the commission to deny demolition, in the hopes that it could be restored, according to minutes from the board's April 26, 2012, meeting.

Despite the historical society's wishes, Maxim voted with the town commission to allow new construction by Court Atkins Architects at the Graves House site, according to the commission's minutes.

Soon after, however, the Graves House was sold to the United Methodist Church and has since been approved by Town Council to be relocated and restored by resident Garfield Moss. Attempts Tuesday to reach Moss were unsuccessful.

Another qualm listed on the society's Jan. 8 meeting agenda was the "Zokan Building," a small cottage at 51 Colcock St.

Maxim and the society disagreed on demolishing the 750-square-foot home near the May River. At the society's September meeting, board members requested the town investigate the structure's historical significance before approving demolition, according to meeting minutes.

Maxim, however, voted with the majority of the commission two weeks later to demolish the cottage. The cottage is still slated for demolition.

McCracken, the society's interim chairman, acknowledged Maxim did not vote in line with the group in those instances. But he said Maxim's continued role on the commission did not bother him.

"When he resigned, (his role on the town commission) certainly didn't register for me, and I don't know if it was on the front burner of anyone else," he said.

Town officials, meanwhile, are pondering whether Maxim should be allowed to stay on the commission.

"Town staff recently became aware of Nick Maxim's resignation and they are researching if he is still eligible to serve on (the commission)," town spokeswoman Debbie Szpanka said in an email Tuesday.

Commission members are appointed by Town Council and required to be residents, business owners or landowners in the historic district, according to town ordinance. It was unclear Tuesday if Maxim fit any of those categories.

Attempts Tuesday to reach James Brown, the commission's chairman, were unsuccessful.

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

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