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Tarrytown house will not be zoned historic

Thursday, February 5, 2015 by Elizabeth Pagano

After getting more information, the Historic Landmark Commission reversed its decision to save a Tarrytown house through historic designation. Instead, the new owners will be able to move forward with their plans to tear the house down.

Commissioners considered the residence at 3201 Bowman Ave. at their previous meeting, and voted to initiate historic zoning — against the owners’ wishes.

After further review, the Historic Landmark Commission voted unanimously to allow the house to be demolished. Commissioner Terri Myers was absent.

In testifying to the home’s condition, house inspector Nev Nickolson declared that it is “frankly beyond repair — economically and otherwise.”

David Armbrust, of Armbrust & Brown, spoke on behalf of George and Cindy Straughan, who purchased the house in September. He said that the commission’s discussion about the house at its last meeting was “somewhat generic.”

“It seemed to kind of wander all over the place, with not a lot of focus on this particular house,” said Armbrust.

Armbrust asked for the discussion to now focus on the house.

The Straughans found that it would cost in excess of $525,000 to bring the house into compliance with city code.

George Straughan said that he appreciated the role of the commission and what it does, but felt his house was not a good candidate for historic landmarking. Straughan showed the commission pictures that illustrated the condition of the house and its problems.

He then noted that he hoped to preserve several existing features of the house, including exterior lights, the “S” on the chimney, and the curved front door.

“Our hope is to weave something back into these trees that looks just like it has been there as long as this house. But, hidden in its own charm will be a desirable structure that is energy-efficient and created from modern, sustainable materials,” said Straughan.

Next-door neighbor Steve Baker spoke in favor of allowing the demolition. He said that he had moved into his house because he wanted to live in an “established neighborhood.” However, since buying his house 24 years ago, only three homes of the 10 closest to his remain.

“I am tired of construction in my neighborhood, but we welcome the construction next door,” said Baker.

“This is the one that we all wanted to be torn down,” Baker continued. “It was rat-infested. I am in the ranching business. It smelled like an old, decaying I-don’t-know-what. It should have been condemned.”

“We very much appreciate all of your very diligent effort to think further about the concerns raised by this commission,” said Chair Laurie Limbacher.

Historic Preservation Officer Steve Sadowsky explained that the Preservation Office felt the house does not “rise to the level of an individual landmark.” He did not present any additional research on the house, and told the commission the history “was pretty complete on the first go-around.”

No one spoke against allowing the demolition permit to move forward.

Image courtesy of the City of Austin website

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