Baxter House owner submits application to demolish and rebuild

Stephen Romano

The owner of the historic Baxter House has submitted an application to the Village of Baxter Estates to demolish the house and build a replica, village officials said.

Thomas Levin, the attorney for the home’s owner, Sabrina Wu, submitted the application to the village’s Landmarks Preservation Committee on Dec. 20, saying, “Wu proposes to replace the existing structure with a replacement structure with the architectural style consistent with the existing structure.”

Wu is only required to rebuild the exterior of the house as an exact replica under village code because the interior is not landmarked.

The decision to demolish and rebuild, which is opposed by many village residents, capped months of discussions about the future of the house that ranged from renovating the home to raising money from village residents to buy it.

“The actual application we’ve been expecting is now in, which puts this project on a specific legal track,”  Chris Prior, the village attorney, said at last Thursday’s board meeting. “It’s in the hands of the landmarks commission.”

The landmarks panel will review the application at its next meeting, which is scheduled for the second week of February, village officials said.

Mayor Nora Haagenson said the chairman of the  committee, Peter Salins, said he intends to allow public comment at the meeting although it is not a public hearing.

The landmarks committee has 45 days to make a decision on the application or it will automatically be approved, Prior said.

“The applicant understands that time is important,” Prior said. “Everyone wants this to move quickly.”

Haagenson commended the residents at the board meeting for constantly attending meetings and being involved in the issue.

“This has been an ongoing process,” she said. “We would like to see a solution to a problem that has existed in the village for a very long time.”

Wu purchased the house in 2003 for $990,000 and the village landmarked the property in 2005 — a decision appealed by Wu.

The house at 15 Shore Road was built in 1790 and once sat on the Baxter Homestead, which dates back to 1673.

It is the only landmarked property in the village.

The village recently issued Wu an order to remedy a violation for the deteriorating blue tarp on the house, adding to two outstanding violations issued in April and September for not complying with village code.

Wu appealed the first two violations.

One order is pending before the village’s zoning board and the other is pending before the state building commission, Prior said.

Kathy Coley, a resident, sent a letter with over 35 signatures to the board, urging the village to help preserve the house.

“We do desire that the house be preserved, but we also desire that the owner of the Baxter House live under Village law as the rest of us do,” Coley said in the letter.

The letter is one of many efforts residents have taken to promote preserving the house, including showing up to board meetings, writing letters to the board, rallying outside the house and attempting to crowdfund to support litigation.

The board suggested residents submit letters and contact the landmarks committee because the issue is no longer in its control.

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