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A. Thomas Levin Quoted in The Island Now, "Baxter House Plan Raises Concerns"

Apr 14, 2016Local Government and Land Use

Village of Baxter Estates residents have expressed concerns about the future of the historic Baxter House after hearing the owner's proposal to subdivide the property on which it's located.

The discussion about the property at 15 Shore Road took place on March 30 during the planning board's monthly meeting.

Baxter House homeowner Sabrina Wu, who purchased the house in 2003, was not present during the meeting.

An attorney for Wu, Thomas Levin, said Wu plans to subdivide the property and construct a new and smaller home adjacent to Baxter House.

Wu first presented her plans at a public hearing on Dec. 21 and was told by the board that she would need the approval of several village boards including the Landmark Preservation Commission

Wu then submitted her revised plans to the planning board.

Levin said Wu plans to build a new house on the second property and sell the smaller lot to generate funds to invest in the Baxter House, which was given landmark status in 2005.

"We are looking to preserve the house and property and make the community happy," Levin said at the meeting, adding that the future owner of the smaller building would have to apply for the appropriate variances and applications.

Cow Neck Historical Society Trustee Ross Lumpkin, who attended the March 30 meeting, said many people have sympathy for Wu because the Baxter House wasn't made into a designated historic landmark until after she purchased it, but it was still an historic landmark and the history was well-known.

He said he also believes Wu is planning to have the Baxter House demolished due to neglect.

"When you buy a house, I think the person is expected to look into it. She's going to know that part of the foundation in 300 years old," Lumpkin said. "I don't know if she bought it without knowing. That doesn't seem credible because there was really a lot of talk about it at that time. If she really didn't know I'd want to know who her real estate agent was and who her lawyer was. Somebody should've told her, but it seems that whatever has happened there she hasn't done anything to take care of the house after all this time."

Lumpkin said he knows people have a right to make money off property but not by neglecting it.

"The idea is you go into a house and make it nicer and time helps a little bit but eventually you sell it and I think that's the more traditional way," he said.

Levin said at a previous meeting that the cost of renovating the landmarked home has become prohibitive and approval of the plan would provide Wu with the funds she needs to rehabilitate the historic residence.

Levin said engineers and inspectors checked out the property and it's unlikely it can be restored.

Board officials said they had concerns about selling the subdivided property, and the high density and safety issues due to the close proximity of the two buildings.

The board made a motion to table the proposal for further discussion.

The Baxter Estates planning board will discuss the Wu's proposal at the next meeting on April 27.