Excerpt from the Calvert Recorder:
The Board of County Commissioners ruled to remove the historic district designation from the Locust Inn on South Solomons Island Road. The inn, built in the early 1900s, received the designation in 1988 via a resolution made by a former board of commissioners.
The 4-0-1 decision came after a joint public hearing in April where the Calvert County Planning Commission recommended to the BOCC that the designation be removed. The board decided instead to give county staff time to evaluate the findings and make a recommendation to the board, tabling the final decision until Tuesday.
“I move that we find, first, that [a] mistake was made in the adoption of Resolution 55-88 because the character, interest or value of the Locust Inn as part of the development, heritage or cultural characteristics of the county, state or nation was questionable at best in the structure as it existed in 1988,” motioned Commissioners’ Vice President Evan Slaughenhoupt (R).
In addition, Slaughenhoupt motioned for eight legislative findings, to include changes in architectural features and additions, that he said warrants the removal of the designation and necessitating the amending of zoning maps to reflect the change. All board members present supported the motion, bringing to closure a five-month debate over the property’s status. Commissioner Steve Weems (R) was not present during the vote.
“It’s another caught between a rock and a hard place,” said Commissioner Pat Nutter (R), adding that every decision the BOCC makes seemed as such.
“It was a significant change. It just looks like an old house,” said Nutter referring to old and recent photos of the inn. He questioned whether there are any regulations in place to govern and ensure the historic features are maintained.
Community Planning and Building Director Mark Willis confirmed that Calvert historic preservation planner Kirsti Uunila is working on a plan to address the various existing historic sites to make sure those facilities are maintained. The plan will include a normal cycle for inspection of historic properties and collaboration with zoning enforcement staff.
The quest to remove the historic moniker from the Locust Inn came about in February 2017 when current owner Jeannie Cousineaux-Stone, who acquired the property in 2016, submitted an application to the Historic District Commission requesting the removal of the designation.
In her application, Cousineaux-Stone’s said that there were no elements that made the property historical other than the date that it was constructed. The commission denied the request on the basis that the inn structure still met the criteria for the designation citing that it still had significant character, historic heritage of the county and more.
Ironically, just 11 days after the public hearing a fire was set at the inn causing $50,000 in structural damages and injuring three firefighters. The April 23 fire was determined to be intentional, according to a report from the Maryland State Fire Marshal.
On July 13, Deputy Chief Fire Marshal Duane K. Svites informed The Calvert Recorder the investigation into the fire “is on-going and there is nothing else to share at this point.” He also reported the firefighters’ injuries were considered minor at the time of the fire and that they all had been treated and released after the incident.
It is unclear what the plans are for the Solomons property now that the historic district designation has been removed. Efforts by the Recorder to reach Cousineaux-Stone and her lawyer, Steve Oberg, were not successful by press time.