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UPDATED: Planning commissioner resigns over historic house demolition plan

ericksenhouse1 A longtime Bainbridge planning commissioner resigned in protest Thursday night after casting a dissenting vote against the demolition of a 107-year-old house set among a row of historic homes on Ericksen Avenue.

“These were the houses of workers in the shipyard that was the main industry on the island,” said Gary Pettersen, whose resignation caps over a decade on the commission. “We have to save our history because once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

With the city Planning Commission’s three-to-two vote recommending the demolition’s approval, it is almost assured that the house at 216 Ericksen Ave. will be demolished to make way for new offices and townhouses. The redevelopment project will go forward despite opposition from neighbors, local historians, the state historical preservation department and some members of city Design Review Board.

Pettersen said the demolition violates the intent of the city’s Comprehensive Plan, which calls for the preservation of Ericksen Avenue’s historic character.

“I resigned at the meeting last night because I thought the Comprehensive Plan was being ignored,” said Pettersen, who previously served 10 years on the commission before his latest nine-month stint.

While city code does not prohibit demolition, it does require all additions and remodels to fit the early 1900s character of the downtown Winslow street. Additions put also be located to the rear of existing historic buildings.

In approving the project, the commission is following the wording of zoning rules while opting not to consider the intent of the Comprehensive Plan, Pettersen said.

“The (plan) doesn’t mention demolition, but if it had to mention every single possibility, the document would be 10 feet tall,” he said.

Commissioner Martin Minkoff, who voted in favor of the plan, said city code has no provision mandating historic preservation.

“It’s a tough issue,” he said. “The (Comprehensive Plan) clearly states the intent is to preserve the historic structures. Yet, the ordinance behind it is voluntary in nature. It is not proscriptive- or prohibition-based.”

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