The Village of Baxter Estates is at a crossroads.
Its landmarked namesake is in shambles and the mayor and the trustees say they are powerless to affect an outcome other than demolition.
Indeed, they seem to welcome demolition after many years of failing to protect the house.
There are two stories here, one is a tale of good intentions and a hope that an absentee owner will do the right thing despite a history of doing exactly the opposite.
The other story, in my view just as tragic, a municipal government that asks that its laws being complied with rather than demand it.
A government should not have to “persuade, cajole, convince” anyone to comply with the law.
As Teddy Roosevelt put it “no man is above the law and no man is below it: nor do we ask any man’s permission when we ask him to obey it.”
The law requires no more nor less, but that is in my view what the village has done for these long years.
Some have expressed sympathy for the owner because she bought the house not knowing it could be landmarked.
There is much disinformation regarding the landmarking process.
Many do not appear to recognize that the House was landmarked in 2005 after the owner was afforded extensive due process and that in landmarking the property, the village noted that the owner was aware that the house was over 300 years prior to the sale and that there was a historic preservation law on the books.
The village landmarked the Baxter House in 2005 and the owner never sought to challenge that determination.
Rather, from records obtained from the Village, it appears that the owner not only failed to maintain the home in violation of village laws, but also illegally turned the house — a single-family — into a multiple occupancy.
She was first cited for this in 2012 and the later in 2014.
In connection with the violations she received she has paid not a cent to the village in fines.
Each member of the Village Board took an oath to enforce the laws of the Village, but with regard to the Baxter House that enforcement has been entirely wanting.
Please join us for the Baxter Estates Landmark Commission meeting on Wednesday, March 1 at 7:30 p.m. at the Port Washington Public Library.
Come to speak for the house and speak for the rule of law.
Michael A. Scotto