Metro, Politics, Newton

Newton Historical Commission Approves Demolitions for Homes

Newton Historical Commission met to review total and partial demolition submissions from several residents on Thursday night. 

The process of allowing the demolition of a house in the City of Newton requires that the house be deemed not perfectly preserved by the Historical Commission. 

“So the perfectly preserved standard is that the property is historically significant,” said Doug Cornelius, chair of the Historical Commission. “And its loss would be detrimental to historical architecture, heritage, or the resources of the city.”

If a house is majority voted as perfectly preserved by the commission, then the applicant may return in 40 days for another demolition request, according to Cornelius. 

Adrianne Weir, a representative of Mayer & Associates Architects, came on to discuss the home at 8 Everett Street, a circa 1900 Dutch Colonial home in a well-preserved Newton neighborhood. The home is the residence of the Goldberger family, who submitted a request to the commission for a partial demolition.

“So for a partial demolition, it’s a two-step process,” Cornelius said. “First, we determine whether it’s perfectly preserved. If we do find it to be perfectly preserved, since it’s a partial demolition, we like renovations and to have to take a look at the plans.”

Weir explained that the family’s decision to only partially demolish the house and renovate the more recent addition was done out of respect for the home’s original, historical value. 

“We think that the original portion of the house before the 1996 addition was done is a beautiful home, and we believe that that portion should be preferably preserved,” Weir said.
Randie Goldberger, one of the homeowners, came forward to introduce herself and her family to the commission and detail the extent of their renovation plans following the commission’s unanimous approval of the home’s perfectly preserved status. 

“I was so happy to move into a neighborhood in a city that is unlike where we came from, and we are loving it,” Goldberger said. “We fell in love with the house, and the architecture in New England is so different than what we’re used to.”

Weir explained that the renovation will include the extension of the dining room, an attached garage addition, and added terracing to the grading to allow more lawn space for the family. 

“I think overall it looks great,” said Harvey Schorr, a commission member. “But I wish that some of the existing character of the building might have been better preserved on that elevation.”

MaryLee Belleville, a Newton resident, spoke up when the commission opened the space for public comment, saying she often drives past the home and is pleased with the proposal. 

“I’m glad to see that the owners are preserving the house,” Belleville said. “And I thought that what was presented looked great and didn’t detract from the existing house.”

The commission voted to allow the proposed renovations of the home following several recommendations for possible improvements. 

Another item up for consideration was 54 Langley Road, a circa 1845, 2.5-story home where the owner, Jason Graca, returned following a previously issued demolition delay waiver.

Cornelius explained that the delay had been issued due to problems with the proposed demolition plans that Graca had previously submitted. 

“Our idea is to look into ways to mitigate the loss of the property, either through an echo of some combination of the existing property, or otherwise fitting into the neighborhood context,” Cornelius said. 

Following the revised presentation on the demolition request, Commission Alternate Anne Marie Stein explained her issues with the new design concept. 

 “It has nothing to do with anything that’s in the neighborhood … I think that if there’s a way to change that design to have it actually meld more with the neighbor that would be appreciated,” Stein said. “Because even though it was in bad repair, it’s quite a stately and elegant house by the way it’s situated on that property, and it would be a loss.” 

When opened to public comment, several Newton residents detailed their complaints. 

“This mitigates the loss of what is stately and elegant,” Belleville said. “Yes, it was bastardized over the years with aluminum siding, etc. But the bones were there and this is just horrific.”

Ward 3 Councilor-at-Large Pamela Wright explained how she agreed with the other speakers in regards to the new 54 Langley Road proposal. 

“This is an 1845 house, great bones, and what’s replacing it is jarring,” Wright said. “There’s very little mimicking, and it would be a big loss.”

The commission decided to take no action on the design proposal, offering Graca the opportunity to return with a revised plan. 

April 28, 2024

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