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Historic panel wants penalties

April 08, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

The Washington County Historic District Commission wants future demolition permit applicants to be penalized, if legally possible, for giving the county misleading or false information.

The request will be included in a letter the board is sending to the Washington County Commissioners in the wake of the March 2 demolition of a historic building.

A 1770s-era log house at 19933 Mount Aetna Road was leveled by developers after the county issued a verbal permit without doing a computer check to find out if it was historically significant.

Personnel at the Washington County Permits and Inspections Department thought they were giving contractor Wes Churchey permission to demolish a small addition to a stone house at 19933 Mount Aetna Road. Churchey thought he was given verbal permission to demolish the entire house.

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The written permit, distributed during Wednesday's meeting, listed the value of the home as $5,000, which several board members felt was misleading.

Stephen Goodrich, chief senior planner of the Washington County Planning Department, questioned how the county could determine whether someone was intentionally misleading.

At a meeting the day after the demolition, the board asked Goodrich to write a letter to the County Commissioners on the issue of preservation of historic properties and to request a joint meeting.

At Wednesday's meeting, Goodrich distributed a draft of a letter he has written. Board members said his letter barely mentions the March 2 demolition and is not specific enough.

Goodrich said the letter was intentionally low-key.

"I knew you wanted to go down there and yell and scream, but you can't do that," Goodrich told them.

The county has a process in place, involving checking both a computerized and written list of historic properties, intended to avoid the demolition of historic buildings.

Goodrich said the permit is not supposed to be issued until he has looked at the request and checked the lists.

The skipping of that process on this occasion alarmed preservationists, some of whom helped compile the list of historic properties.

On March 9, Paul Prodonovich, director of the Washington County permits and inspection department, said his staff would no longer give verbal authorization for demolition permits.

The demolished building near Black Rock Golf Course was the main house on a plantation called Fox Deceived, built by Conrad Hogmire. In 1776, Hogmire became one of the county's first commissioners.

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