Sawyer Savings has shelved plans to purchase and demolish a Partition St. home to expand its parking lot and construct a drive-through ATM, citing negative publicity.
The decision has Mayor William Murphy furious at village historic preservationists, sarcastically saying he’s “glad they think they know what’s best for everyone… This is two major improvements now that the [Historic Review Board] has thwarted.” (The first, according to the mayor, was an expansion of the Speedy Mart convenience store several years ago.)
The home is the latest front in an ongoing battle between the village government and the village Historic Review Board, a battle which became existential for the latter last month after the mayor unveiled a plan to merge the Review Board with the Planning Board.
While the mayor is steaming, preservationists are beaming.
“I knew that Sawyer bank, as a friendly, local bank, would find it difficult to tear down a house in the historic district to put in a parking lot,” said Richard Frisbie, chair of the village Historic Review Board.
Frisbie said the village should have worked with the bank to find a solution that would accomplish the same goals without destroying the home. He suggested the bank could have purchased the adjacent Baptist Church and torn down “the ugly addition” and achieved the same access to the proposed parking lot expansion. He said the Review Board would have been happy to get the original church structure “on the National Register, extending the historic district rather than reduc[ing] it.”
The church then could have been used as a “community center/performance space within walking distance to everything our historic village offers… Now that is a legacy a friendly, local bank should have as its goal.”
Undaunted by the bank’s decision, Murphy said he hopes to meet with bank officials and convince them to move forward with the application and not listen to “a nearsighted few.”
“It’s a shame what these few people have done,” Murphy added. “The bank is a real asset to the community and their plan would have helped create more downtown parking, something business leaders have been asking for.”