Excerpt from MyEasternShoreMD:

The Historic Preservation Commission, at its meeting Monday, March 28, discussed some 20 demolition requests for buildings in Kent County.

Katrina Tucker, of the county planning, housing and zoning department, showed photos of the properties and gave descriptions of each, based on site visits by commission members and county staff. Several, she said, have already been taken down. The number of demolition requests reflects the fact that the board’s last meeting was in October.

The primary mission of the HPC is to document structures of historic significance. A building is considered historic at 75 years old, but other factors such as who owned the property, how it was used and its architectural significance also come into play. Buildings recognized as historically significant can qualify for easements, tax credits and other benefits.

The board has no power to prevent the demolition of a building. However, HPC chairman Elizabeth Beckley said, the commission can advise an owner on benefits available for historic properties, which may make it possible to save some buildings.

An example was a large farmhouse on Massey Road, built in 1903, which Beckley described as “one of the best remaining Kent County farmhouses.” While it is “solid as a rock,” it needs considerable restoration work, and the owner would like to return the portion of land where it stands to agriculture, Beckley said. But it might be possible to sell the building and move it to another portion of the farm, if the owner is willing to subdivide the property for it, she said. She said she would speak with the owner about options the board members suggested.

In some cases, Beckley said, the property owner has allowed the commission to save some details of the building, such as moldings and window sashes.

In several cases, the building being demolished was of no intrinsic importance, but other buildings on the property are of considerable historical interest. Beckley said the county’s inventory of historic properties is out of date. “We don’t know what’s extant and what’s gone,” she said. She said there is no active survey of the county’s historic properties. “We need to get one,” she said.

Beckley said the commission needs to tell property owners “how we’re a resource for them. They may not know all the ways we can help them.”

She said the recession that began in 2008 prevented many owners from taking steps to preserve their properties. Projects are just starting to come back in, she said.

In Other Business:

• Commission members interviewed Don Othoson as a prospective new member. Beckley said Othoson would give the commission more geographic diversity, coming from an an area of the county that hasn’t previously had a representative.

Othoson outlined his experience as a member of the Galena town council and as mayor of Galena. Asked about the importance of preservation, he said, “I get sick every time I see one of (the county’s old houses) go.”

Beckley said Othoson’s familiarity with the area’s old houses qualified him for the commission. The other members agreed and his name will be put before the county commissioners for approval.

• The commission discussed a proposed cell phone tower on Morgnec Road. Beckley said the area is “an important cultural landscape” in the county’s black history. She said the commission “may not have anything to say about (the tower), but we should take the opportunity to find out what’s there.”

• After discussion, the commission agreed to change its meeting schedule from monthly to every other month. The next meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. May 30 in the county commissioners’ hearing room.

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