FARMINGTON – The plan to raze two Perham Street homes to make way for a bus access road as part of the Mallett School Building Project had been declared officially dead.
The plan came to an abrupt halt after the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, which advises the Department of Environmental Protection on building projects, said that one of the the two houses set to be razed under the plan is in a “historical preservation district,” and should not be destroyed.
“We really are struggling,” Assistant Superintendent Susan Pratt told the MSAD 9 school board Tuesday night. “The Maine Historic Preservation has shut us down with those two properties. They said, ‘no, we cannot.’ We’re not just slowed down, we’re stopped.”
The organization that decides the areas of the historic districts in hundreds of cities and towns in Maine, said the house at 113 Perham Street has historical significance to the Farmington Historic District. According to a memo by MSAD 9 consultant, architect Stephen Blatt, the commission said the removal of the home at 113 Perham Street “would compromise the integrity of the historic district.”
Two houses, one facing Perham Street and the other directly behind it, were part of a proposal to raze the buildings and build an access road for bus traffic. Consultants working with the Mallett School building committee wanted the new road access built to keep traffic as far away from the 400 or so pre-kindergarten through third-grade students and the playing fields as possible which meant avoiding the use of the Quebec Street entrance.
Neighbors of the homes proposed for demolition opposed the plan, noting among many concerns, the disruption of the town’s historic district’s aesthetic. The Maine Historic Preservation Commission is objecting to the removal of the one house facing Perham Street but not the other behind it. Both houses would need to be removed to build the access road.
Ironically, the town of Farmington has identified in the zoning ordinance its own “Village Business Historic District,” but does not include the two houses proposed for demolition, town code enforcement officer, Steve Kaiser said earlier.
Although much of the traffic safety issue comes from the fact that the in-town lot is small, totaling 4.75 acres. That includes the University of Maine at Farmington parking lot adjacent the school in which a portion has been given back to MSAD 9 in a verbal agreement for the building project. The state Department of Education guidelines suggest a 9-acre plot for a school of similar size.
Consultants, architect Stephen Blatt and engineer Bill Hoffman had come up with an alternate plan to reroute the bus access from Quebec Street and along the northern edge of the school’s property to where the new building is proposed to sit. However, in earlier discussions, it was noted the state Department of Education would have objections to a road near the playing fields.
So it’s back to the drawing board, Pratt said. “The preference is to look at the current site and to see if it’s still possible. We’ve got to look at the safety issues. We’re looking at other property acquisitions and traffic through the site,” she added.