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Demolition delay on motel a government intrusion

To the editor:

The recent decision of the Northampton Historical Commission to deny a permit for demolition of the Shaw’s Motel is, in my opinion, an example of unnecessary and overreaching governmental intrusion into private property rights. Even though the building is completely unremarkable, even boring, from the outside, and has been closed and in disrepair for over 10 years, the commission decided that it has historical significance and cannot be demolished for up to a year.

Its decision was apparently based on the facts that the building dated back to the 18th century, its chimney and the “bones,” or interior wood construction, were old, and it is located in one of the oldest parts of the city. I do not think that these few facts are sufficient for the city to deprive the owner of the property the right to use, or demolish, their property as they see fit.

Will the commission next require that the public be allowed entrance to the building on some regular basis to look at the cool, old chimney? How does the public benefit from preventing demolition of an old chimney and old interior wood construction, and who should pay for whatever minimal benefit there might be?

An architect who urged the commission to take this action reportedly said that even though the building is an eyesore right now, he’d like to see someone with an appreciation of historic preservation take on the restoration. That is a nice thought, but who does he, or the commission, suggest pay for what would be the substantially higher costs of a historically pure renovation?

Will the city pay for those costs or will the owner be forced to pay them? I think that the commission’s action was wrong and reflects an attitude that well-intentioned people can tell the rest of us how to live our lives or use our property.

Alan Verson


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