A proposal to demolish and replace a unique residence at 37 Hillside Avenue found itself at the confluence of preservation values and development rights during consecutive board meetings on Thursday evening, April 8.
First, the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) determined that the property has enough historical significance to be subject to the town’s 18-month demolition delay, designed to provide a window of opportunity to move or reconfigure residences planned for teardown.
The HPC scheduled a public hearing for May 4, when townspeople may offer comments on the proposed redevelopment. The Commission will consider whether to allow demolition to proceed, or to impose restrictions on a replacement structure.
At the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) meeting which took place immediately after the HPC decision, builder Nicholas Vercollone petitioned the ZBA to demolish the house and rebuild a similar house with proper code specifications.
The Vercollone and Koller families, under the organizational name 37 Hillside LLC, were denied a special permit at the ZBA meeting due to lack of information and were asked to return for a public hearing and continued discussion on May 13.
The partners purchased the house, hoping to restore it and bring it up to code. However, they found this impossible, with its deficiencies being too great. The lot is nonconforming in both overall lot size and frontage, prompting Vercollone to petition the ZBA for approval to demolish.
The house, a few hundred feet north of The Great Road, is an English cottage design, built in 1911. As Vercollone pointed out, it has many charming architectural details that he hopes to maintain in the new construction.
Building code issues in the house include headway above the staircase being too low, and ceiling and door heights below the minimum. The height of the ceiling rafters restricts correcting these, and outdated plumbing and electrical systems would hamper development, leading to the request for demolition, he said.
Vercollone’s plan for the new house matches the style of the current residence while substantially increasing its footprint. Additionally, the plan replaces the current detached garage with an attached two-car garage facing the street.
Architectural details to be retained would include many of the English stylings of the house, from external aspects like roofing to interior details like exposed beam ceilings.
When reviewing the plan, ZBA members noticed information missing from the proposal, including how changes in the water table will affect the new construction.
During a public comment section, community members voiced concerns, saying that it is part of the shift towards larger homes that will take away Bedford’s charm. Other general concerns included how aspects of the new development, like the larger facade, might affect the streetscape.