Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Don't Tear Down This Barn!

Cowls barn, 134 Montague Road, North Amherst

After impassioned pleas by North Amherst neighbors with no vested interest other than visual, the Amherst Historical Commission voted unanimously (4 yes, 3 absent) to impose a "one year demolition delay" on W.D. Cowls, the largest private landowner in the state, doing business in the town of Amherst before there was a town of Amherst.

 Amherst Historical Commission

The barn sits immediately behind and looms over the Cowls family farmhouse -- built in 1768 -- which now serves as company headquarters.

 Cinda Jones failed to convince the Amherst Historical Commission to allow demolition

The barn is within spitting distance of the cow barn @ 113 Cowls Road that will be almost completely dismantled and rebuilt for the selling pleasure of Atkins Farms Country Market, a relative newcomer at just over 100 years of doing business in the far south end of town.

 Cow barn:  future home of Atkins Farms Country Market

 More than a dozen friendly neighbors showed up to oppose demolition

The cost to repair the barn for agricultural reuse approached $250,000, which would not provide a viable return on investment.  The current preferred plan is to donate the salvageable wood to the Emily Dickinson Homestead for an interpretive historically accurate barn raising on the property.

The one year delay does have an "escape clause" whereby the owner can come back in three or four months showing that there are no economically viable solutions to save the structure, and the delay could be lifted.

The Historical Commission seemed genuinely troubled over enacting the full delay, pointing out that Ms. Jones had already done many of the things an owner is expected to do AFTER the one year delay is imposed.  

Barn with 1 year stay of execution (left) Atkins new north location (right)



Anonymous said...

Are these neighbors ready to come up with the $250K required to renovate the barn? The Historical Commission blew this one big time. This town is filled with busy bodies who constantly stand in the way of progress.

Nothing left but stupid said...

I pray to Jesus that them grammies
can save the barn cause there aint another like it for miles.


-Father Squeaky Squeaks

p.s. And grampah, save the milking machine

cause they're in desperate needa one down the schools.



Anonymous said...

No chance that this is retribution for the Retreat?

Anonymous said...

The other barn collapsed while they were trying to "shore it up" and this one will too. No loss.

Anonymous said...

I wish people would stop sticking their noses where they do not belong, it is Cowls barn, if they want it down it should come down. MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS PEOPLE!!!

Anonymous said...

The latest gang victory by the North Amherst Crips. Don't step on their turf or they will send a bearded and bespectacled enforcer to berate you!!!

Anonymous said...

This is private property, but is a historically significant structure in a highly visible location, and as such, it is the responsibility of the historical commission to review its demolition. I am in favor of private owner rights, but many useful and wonderful structures have been demolished in Amherst over the years by owners that saw nothing beautiful nor useful about them regardless of their condition. At least a delay might create some new opportunities here with very little hardship for the the owner.

The bigger issue is why such a prominent family who are proud of their history, heritage, and architecture allowed the barn to deteriorate in the first place. The roof could have been dealt with before it got to this point for relatively little money. It is their right to let is fail, but still it is a waste of a valuable resource for themselves and the community.

I wonder that if this barn was not in its current state, but still in working order, if Cowls would want to reuse it. It would cost a lot of money to upgrade it for commercial use, but cost more to start from scratch with a new building that may not be as interesting nor fit in with the historic landscape nearly as well.

The other issue is timing. The barn is not falling down and is in much better shape than the trolley barn. Why not stabilize it, put a fence around it, and wait to see how well the Mill District does before deciding the barn's fate? Why the rush to demolish? At some point in the future Cowls may wish that they did not raze it. Seems like jumping the gun to me with no real plan for that spot.

Anonymous said...

This town sucks at times….HER land HER decision. PERIOD. I don't give a rats ass how "Historical" it is. You want something historical? Buy it. Otherwise SFTU and get out of the way. Govt intrusion at its finest.

This is no victory, only a temp solution. A stay of execution. But the executioner will now remember this and when "requests" and pleas are made they shall be done upon deaf ears.

I can hear an axe grinding in the distance.

Anonymous said...

"very little hardship for the owner"

seems like it's already a hardship and like the owner is jumping through hoops for no good reason. as an owner, delays tend to be VERY costly

"put a fence around it"

ya...that sounds like we really need to protect this shelter...by fencing it in so no one can get at it and then its REALLY useful.

Anonymous said...

"Barned burned down, now I can see the moon"

Anonymous said...

Who is liable if the barn (a) falls down and injures someone, and/or (b) being the "attractive nuisance" that old barns tend to be, some child gets into it and is hurt?

Cinda wants it down, the town doesn't, and but for that, it would be down -- but for the town stopping her, she'd had the barn demolished before the injury, hence there wouldn't have been one.

Why wouldn't the town be liable?

Anonymous said...

Cinda ought to get some points for scoring well on the Assets at Risk/Practical Intelligence/Personal Attractiveness matrix in Amherst.

Come to think of it, in that scoring system, I'm not sure that there's anyone who comes close to her here.

Anonymous said...

Barry Roberts would keep it and make it work for the community.