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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Cadley farmhouse razing hotly debated

By James Tinley
Register Staff
— The long-simmering controversy over the razing of the historic Cadley farmhouse boiled over Monday night at a special aldermanic meeting called to hash out the circumstances surrounding the fall of the house.
In his opening statements, Mayor James L. Richetelli Jr. blasted aldermanic Chairman Ben Blake, D-5, for even calling the meeting.
“The irresponsible way in which the chairman called this meeting, and by public remarks he and others have made prior to it, undermines the city’s legal position and puts politics ahead of principles,” Richetelli said.
Blake, however, said the meeting was called to promote transparency in government and that the issue deserved to be handled in a public way.
“Tonight, we are not here to play or engage in political battles,” Blake said. “Hopefully, by the end of this discussion — and it is a discussion — we will understand why demolition permits were issued in error and how we can ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
Prior to the meeting, Blake said he hoped the meeting would first determine if the developer who bought the property broke a deal with the city. And if the Board of Aldermen finds Westwood Ranches broke the agreement, whether the city should seek $200,000 in damages that Blake said the city paid for the preservation of the farmhouse.
Richetelli said publicly airing strategies of possible future litigation would put the city at a disadvantage if a lawsuit ever materializes. At press time, debate was ongoing.
The Cadley farmhouse was built in 1790. It was dismantled in November, before the 45-day waiting period, required for houses built before 1902 are demolished, expired. The Cadley farmhouse was purchased by the city and sold to Westwood Ranches in a deal that left 3.6 acres of open space and required the exterior appearance and any historic value of the house to be preserved.
The deal permitted 1.5 acres to be sold to Westwood Ranches at a $200,000 discount because of deed restrictions in the historic preservation covenant, Blake said.
Richetelli maintained the Cadley farmhouse was meticulously dismantled after it was determined that the beams holding the house up were too rotted for it to be moved, as was originally planned. A replica of the house, which will contain salvaged materials, will be built on the Old Field Lane site.
City Attorney Marilyn Lipton has also maintained that the developer has not violated the deal.
Building Inspector Tom Raucci weeks before the meeting admitted that one of his employees issued the demolition permit in error without following the demolition delay ordinance. He did not appear at the meeting Monday night, despite Blake’s written request that he appear.
City Historian Richard Platt suggested in the future a preservation organization hold the deed to historically important houses, rather than the city.
James Tinley can be reached at or 876-3030.


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