Saturday, February 4, 2023

Shaw House Property Demolition OK’d

Shaw House at 1701 E. Jackson Ave.
Shaw House at 1701 E. Jackson Ave.

Developers met with the Historic Preservation Commission on Tuesday to again request permission to demolish five structures on the property, not including the Shaw House.
The commission approved demolition 5-2 for four structures, with the understanding that the barn would remain in its current location.
Developers now have permission to tear down a caretaker’s cottage, a modern duplex and a modern single-family home, and a concrete pad. The demolition work has been tabled several times, once before the Historic Preservation Commission and also before the Planning Commission.
The Shaw House, built in 1848, is unique because it’s one of the few antebellum homes left in town, and when built was used as a working farm.
Sonia Thompson, a member of the Historic Preservation Commission, voted against allowing demolition of any structures on the property before a site plan is approved.
“When a historical structure is altered, it’s altered permanently,” Thompson said.
The Planning Commission denied a special exception Monday that’s needed to sell housing on the property, if three or more homes are built.
Developer Sid Brian said Tuesday evening at the commission meeting that developers will not again pursue a special exception. That would significantly change the type of housing that can be located there by developers, if they choose to try building multiple homes on the Shaw House property site.
“If you’re building three or more rental units, you don’t have to have a special exception,” said city planner Tim Akers.
Akers said developers would still need an approved site plan before any rental units could be built on the site.
The site plans will be ready next month, according to Brian. The planning, zoning and historic preservation commissions would still need to approve those plans before any construction could begin.
Developers’ plans have ranged from 12 up to 18 new structures on the property, flanking the house on the east and west. Because the new homes would be at a lower elevation than Shaw House, developers claim that they won’t detract from its unique, historical position.
“It’s a special property, as well as a special house,” Thomson said during the meeting.
Historic preservation isn’t about saving one house, she said, but instead it’s about preserving the identity of a neighborhood. While Thompson would love to see the Shaw House saved, she said that restoring the house and building more than a dozen buildings around it doesn’t constitute historic preservation. That, she said, is a disservice to the neighborhood.
A side view of Shaw House.
A side view of Shaw House.

Local neighbors of the Shaw House have been outspoken in their objections to development of new housing on the property, for reasons that vary from problems with drainage plans to the sheer number of buildings.
A lawsuit has been filed by neighboring property owners William and Polina Wheeler in Chancery Court against trustees of the Oliver A. Shaw Trust. Their attorney, Tom Freeland, is requesting that the court acknowledge an easement of a portion of Shaw House property that is presently used as a driveway to access the Wheeler property. They have used the driveway for 10 years, according to the lawsuit.
During the battle about the future of the Shaw property, both sides have invoked the name of Eleanor Shaw, one of the deceased former owners of the home. Neighbors have insisted that she would not have wanted to see the property developed.
A December letter from her son, John Shaw, to Mayor Pat Patterson insists that he is carrying out the wishes of his mother and father. That letter is included in documentation for the special exception request submitted by Brian Development.
– Gretchen Stone is HottyToddy.com associate editor. You can contact Gretchen about this story at Gretchen.Stone@HottyToddy.com

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