Bedford Property Owners Win Right to Demolish Historic Tudor Structure Known - Bell Tower Preserved
On Tuesday, The Bedford Town Board heard the appeal of Dr. Darel Benaim and her husband Carlos in regards to their application to demolish an architecturally distinct structure on their property known as the Belfry.
The Benaim's had purchased the property on 44 Holly Branch Road in 2011 with the intent of tearing down the hundred year old building and incorporating home of stone, wood and glass into the rolling hill. "Our real estate broker assured us we would be able to complete the designs
Four months later, the couple was confronted with the Historical Building Preservation Ordinance and found their property among 500 other Bedford properties affected. Stopping their plans cold, she said, "We were shocked."
The ordinance calls for the preservation of properties and structures that contain distinctive architectural and historical significance. The point of contention has hinged on the transparency of the document.
The Benaim's claimed that they nor the various real estate and legal agents enlisted in the acquisition knew nothing of the Ordinance, and in fact, was not available to the public. Otherwise, she said, "We never would have purchased the property."
In response, John Stockbridge, the Town of Bedford's Historian denied the so called "secrecy" of the list, as he argued in favor of the preservation of the Tudor Style structure for the Bedford Village Historic District Review Commission. "There is no intent to have secrets. This is a survey that is available for people to look at," he said. "Is it sent to everybody - no, but is the wetland map sent to everybody," he asked rhetorically.
In turn, he believed "due diligence" was not done in regards to the property owners and the real estate brokers and lawyers that acted on their behalf. He choose not to speculate on the intent of the various parties.
The main details in dispute aside, the board fashioned a compromise. The Benaim's will be able to demolish the main structure known as the Belfry but most preserve its signature Bell Tower. They can either relocate that or incorporate it into a new structure. Mr. Delbello confirmed that the Benaim's were satisfied with the ruling.
On the other end, Stockbridge was disappointed that the ordinance's intent did not fully stand up but was relieved that the Bell Tower was spared. He also recognized the bigger picture approach the town board was faced with. Pointing to possible ambiguities in any document and the willingness of the residents to continue the fight, he said, "Basically, they didn't want to get involved in an expensive, time consuming litigation."
Ultimately, he sees the outcome going forward as a wake up call for the commission. "We need to be on the same page as the town board so if an ordinance is accepted, it can be relied upon by the public to get a proper review," he concluded.