WILMINGTON- The town withdrew an application to the Development Review Board on Monday that asked for a change of materials for a 10-by-30-foot deck that would house a heating and air conditioning unit on the back of Memorial Hall. The change came after the town decided to go ahead with the original design that called for steel posts, instead of a proposed change to wood.
The town was considering the change to address concerns about the project’s aesthetics, but according to town manager Scott Murphy, decided to withdraw the request after the town, abutters, and architect decided that due to plowing and flooding concerns, steel was the correct material to use.
By withdrawing the DRB application the town also negated the ability for abutters to provide a final say in the deck plan. Abutters Cindy Beaudette and Alice Richter were not at the original DRB meeting, and filed an appeal of the plan’s approval in environmental court. Beaudette says that work on the exterior of Memorial Hall creates a major liability for her, as there are no setbacks on the west side of the building.
Richter, manager of Crafts Inn to the east, says that she was not notified as required and would have never missed such an important meeting. Both say the deck would be downright ugly, and would destroy some of the historical significance of the village, while construction work would traverse their properties.
Richter and Beaudette’s appeal was dismissed by the e court, and with the withdrawal of the town’s DRB application, the avenues for conversation are now directly between the abutters and the town. Both sides have expressed their desire to resolve the issue.
Murphy said that talks have been going well, and the town has sent out liability coverage for neighbors due to the building’s lack of setbacks.
The town is also asking the architecture firm in charge of the project, Linesync, to design a cover for the unit that would help shield it from view. “We just made the town nicer with the river walkway,” said Murphy. “So there will be a lot of people walking back and forth there, and we don’t want them staring at this ugly structure, so we’ll try to shield it from public view and hope that appeases aesthetics.”
Richter also said that talks were going well and that she was happy that the town was willing to make changes, and listen to her and Beaudette’s concerns. “I’m happy we’re working on it,” said Richter. “They’re making an effort, and I hope we can get the hall back up and going again.”
Beaudette says the town needs to do more to protect her from liability issues regarding construction. While the town has offered to protect Beaudette from liability issues during installation and maintenance of the unit, she says the town needs to take a step further and extend the offer to all exterior projects on the building year-round.
“The situation is impossible in terms of my liability,” said Beaudette. “It’s unfair. All of this would not have been much of a problem if years ago we were provided a common courtesy that says ‘Anyone doing any work at all on the exterior of the building, I am not liable for,’ and they won’t do it.”
Beaudette, a former chair of the Memorial Hall Board, said she is still not happy with the design of the porch, as it will ruin some of the historical significance of the village district.
“I’m a number one advocate of using Memorial Hall,” said Beaudette. “I helped form the fee schedule, created 230 surveys at Town Meeting to find out what the people wanted it used for, and I think it’s (the HVAC unit) wrong for the historic district.”
Beaudette says the town should take a better look at putting the HVAC unit on the ground, or inside the building, where the old unit was before flooding from Tropical Storm Irene destroyed it.
“We have to look forward and this is looking backwards, putting that ugly thing on the back of a beautiful building.”