Friday December 15, 2006
Sometimes owners’ rights should prevail
The ongoing debate over the A.N. Myers home on Center Street revolves around a fundamental question for any community: Where should you draw the line between preservation and progress?
In this case, the answer may not lie where nay of the parties involved believe it does.
A controversy has been simmering - between the Ashland County Historical Society on one side and the Center Street Historic District Association and the Historic Preservation Board on the other - over whether the Myers home should be demolished.
The association believes the home has inherent historical significance that must be preserved. The society, which purchased the home in 1998, claims the building historic value has been compromised or even destroyed by decades of remodeling, renovation and neglect.
The disagreement boiled over Tuesday when the Center Street group obtained a temporary restraining order against the historical society when workers were observed removing aluminum siding from the home. The Historic Preservation Board in July denied an application by the owners to demolish the structure.
The decision was set to expire 60 days later, but the Center Street group contends it made a bona fide offer - $85,000 for property the Historical Society bought for $186,000 - and, therefore, the preservation board’s denial still is in effect.
Clearly, Center Street represents part of Ashland’s history that merits preservation.
However, in this case, efforts to preserve Ashland’s history are tantamount to closing the barn door after the house as escaped.
The Myers home has been gutted of its architectural and historic value by decades of renovations into apartments and office space that occurred when there was not a preservation board. All parties agree extensive and expensive work would be required to restore the interior, and even that would not save the history of the house. Several decades ago - again, when there was no preservation board in place - the Elks bought the adjoining property and built their lodge literally within feet of the A.N. Myers home. No amount of restoration of the Myers house can reverse that now.
After the Center Street group made its offer, the society countered with an offer to sell the home from $1, if the association moved the home from the property. That is a counter offer every bit as “bona fide” as the associations effort.
All parties deserved the right of due process, but it seems this argument has gone on long enough. The board’s decision has elapsed and the society should be allowed to proceed with its plans for the property it owns.
Progress should not always win out over historic preservation, but in this particular case, no real history exists that supersedes an owner’s property rights.