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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Cadley house razing still contentious

By James Tinley
Register Staff
— The waiting period required before historic houses may be demolished should have applied to the historic Cadley farmhouse, but an oversight of this was not the fault of the building official who issued the demolition permit, the city’s chief building inspector said.
The Cadley house was built in 1790. It was dismantled in November, before the 45-day waiting period expired. City ordinance requires the waiting period before a pre-1902 structure is demolished.
Thomas Raucci, the chief building inspector, however, clarified that the Cadley house did not fit the strict definition of a demolition, and a “dismantling permit” doesn’t exist.
“In a demolition you demolish and destroy, never rebuilding. A dismantling is a systematic removal of materials, which is what happened at the property,” Raucci said.
“The way it was explained to the inspector was that they would be dismantling the structure to save as much of it as they could,” Raucci said.
Raucci said there was no disciplinary action taken against the inspector, who thought the ordinance only applied to buildings in the historic district. He was later told of his error.
Preservationists and Democratic aldermen also maintain that they were led to believe the house would be preserved as part of a deal brokered between the city and developers.
Aldermanic Chairman Ben Blake, D-5, said the Board of Aldermen will start an investigation at a meeting, likely this month.
The inquiry would examine why communication failed.
But Mayor James L. Richetelli Jr. said Friday all questions have already been answered and Blake has every document that applies to the sale of the property.
He said the investigation can quickly become costly to the taxpayers.
“If their intent is to continue to point blame and have a public bloodletting that’s one thing, and if they want to be productive, well that’s another,” Richetelli said.
The Cadley farm deal left 3.6 acres of open space and required the construction of a replica of the house, using any materials that could be salvaged from the previous home.
The deal permitted 1.5 acres to be sold to Westwood Ranches and a $200,000 discount because of deed restrictions.
“When we tried to protect the historical landmark we tried to make a significant investment in the city’s history,” Blake said.
Blake said it is the Board of Aldermen’s duty to protect the $200,000 investment.
Richetelli maintains that the house was rotted beyond repair and could not be moved closer to Gulf Pond, as the agreement stated.
Despite the complaints voiced by more than a dozen preservationists in the public comment session at Monday night’s Board of Aldermen meeting, Richetelli said no one was misled and the deal was a win for the city.
“I never intended it to be a demolition and never considered it to be a demolition,” Richetelli said.
He said the deal was the result of four years of his hard work.
When the Planning and Zoning Board was originally presented with plans to demolish the house and create a six-unit subdivision, he was the only one defending the house, he said.

Coming Monday: More about the city's Building Department