Lincoln Avenue barn in Amherst possibly used by Robert Frost slated for demolition, even with 11th-hour appeal
AMHERST — A demolition permit to remove a century-old barn at 290 Lincoln Ave. that has connections to Robert Frost is being challenged by neighbors.
The permit, issued Monday by Building Commissioner Robert Morra, was appealed to the town clerk’s office later that day by neighbors, including members of the Coalition of Amherst Neighborhoods.
But Patricia Stacey of 280 Lincoln Ave., who lives next door to the rental property and barn owned by You-Pan Tzeng of Longmeadow, said in an email that it is unclear whether the appeal will have any effect.
Neighbors fear that the barn’s demolition is imminent. Rumors were circulating that it would be taken down today.
Stacey said her understanding is if the barn comes down before the appeal is resolved, the Zoning Board of Appeals could require Tzeng to reconstruct the barn or face fines.
Planning Director Jonathan Tucker said all appeals to zoning permit actions by town officials, such as the building commissioner, are heard by the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Tucker said senior planner Jeffrey Bagg, staff liaison to the ZBA, will work with its chairman to determine when a hearing on the appeal can be scheduled.
Town Manager John Musante said several steps have ensured the process so far has been fair.
“The issue went through the specific regulatory process and judgment was rendered by the Historical Commission,” Musante said.
The commission’s unanimous decision, made in September, was that the barn is not an historically significant building, even though it is unnecessary to take it down.
The home and barn were built in the early 1900s by Warren Brown, an Amherst businessman who also wrote a book titled “Attractive Amherst.” Brown was a friend to Frost, but there was no indication the barn was used as an artist’s studio until claims were made by a real estate agent selling the property in the last year.
Tzeng told the commission that he believes the 28-by-48-foot, 1 1/2-story barn poses a liability for his tenants.
Jennifer Taub of 259 Lincoln Ave. said she and other neighbors are saddened by the likely removal of the barn.
“In addition to losing an extremely long-standing and charming out-building, Mr. Tzeng’s plan for what will replace the barn will absolutely degrade, rather than enhance, the community,” Taub said.
Even if the appeal is upheld at some point by the Zoning Board, it’s unclear how much longer the barn would last. At times when the Historical Commission has used the demolition delay bylaw — which puts a one-year hold on demolition — property owners have simply waited the period and then removed the buildings or structures.