Friday, May 22, 1998

Changes to historic house allowed by board of appeals

by Phyllis Zinicola

Significant renovation of one of the oldest and most visible houses in Carlisle was allowed by the board of appeals at its meeting on May 7. Linda Taylor, owner with Alex Zinke of the pink house located at 879 Concord Street adjacent to Buttrick Pond, appeared with architect Chip Dewing to request a variance and special permit to alter the existing nonconforming structure.

“I consider this one of the most historic houses in Carlisle,” said board member Sandy Scott. The house was once owned by one of General Heald’s sons. Deeds date back to 1855, but there was general agreement that the house was built much earlier. A garage with apartment above was added to the original house in the 1920s.

The proposed construction will buffer the living areas in the house from the road which is only ten feet from the existing house. Plans call for the garage and apartment to be removed, to be replaced by a living room and family room below and bedrooms above, all within the same footprint as the existing structure. An open porch will be added to the new part of the house as additional buffer from the road. A new garage will be built as a separate structure.

Board members expressed concern about maintaining the outside appearance of the house from all visible angles. Dewing presented front, side and rear aspects of the new design. Scott asked, “What will you see as you are driving up Concord Street?” Taylor responded that the roofline will be slightly higher, dormers will be consistent with the rest of the house, the color will be the same, there will be a new porch and the stone wall will be extended along the front of the property.

While most board members expressed admiration for the new plans as sympathetic with the historic nature of the house, Scott pondered how much alteration can be made to a historic house and still “not be detrimental to the neighborhood,” a finding the board is required to make in considering a request for a variance. Scott also mentioned the new distinctive structure preservation bylaw which expresses the town’s intent of preserving historic structures wherever possible.

In allowing the proposed alterations, the board found that the plans as proposed have taken into consideration aesthetics and the historic nature of a house on a main road and represent an appropriate continuation of a historic design and are, therefore, not detrimental to the neighborhood. The board also found that, according to the plans presented, alternatives are constrained by the 100-foot wetlands buffer zone, proximity to the well and closeness to the street, all of which prohibit alteration of the historic portion of the house.

The new construction will also reduce or remove a condition that may constitute a hardship in that the clapboards of the existing garage are now underground due to soil and water movement. The new porch will further protect the foundation and, while it will be closer to the street than the present garage, the porch will be considerably farther back than the older portion of the house. The board added a condition that the porch remain open.

The proposed changes will also improve safety, the board found, in providing for a turnaround area for cars near the new garage.