Monday, December 9, 2013
North Yarmouth officials continue to negotiate the penalty that will be imposed on the Yarmouth Water District for tearing down a historic house in July without a permit as part of a resource protection plan.
Marvin and Ruby Beckwith bought this early 19th century house and 17 acres on Baston Road in North Yarmouth in 1943. The Yarmouth Water District face a possible fine after district officials bought the property this summer and tore down the house.
Press Herald file photo / Contributed photo
The water district, which serves Yarmouth and North Yarmouth, and its contractor, Scott Dugas Trucking & Excavation of Yarmouth, face possible fines totaling $300,000 for razing the vacant 200-year-old house at 129 Baston Road.
The water district and Dugas Trucking have relinquished the 30-foot-long center roof beam and about a dozen antique floor boards that were salvaged during the demolition, said Selectmen Chairman Steven Palmer.
That's all that remains of the modest but sturdy center-chimney Cape that was built when the nation was young.
The late Marvin and Ruby Beckwith lived in the house for more than 65 years, raising a family and tending fields bursting with strawberries.
"It has been returned to the town," Palmer said. "It's all under a tarp outside the Town Office."
The Board of Selectmen will hold an executive session when it meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday to discuss a pending consent agreement, including a penalty that's being negotiated by lawyers for the town and the water district.
At the same time, the district's board of trustees will discuss the pending settlement in its own closed-door meeting at its new headquarters on Sligo Road in Yarmouth.
District officials have apologized and promised to make up for the error, saying they didn't know they had to get a demolition permit and notify the historical society before razing a structure built before 1900.
The district bought the 17-acre farm for $270,000 from the Beckwiths' heirs because it's within an aquifer protection area. District officials said they removed the house quickly to avoid an insurance liability and complete their plan to protect groundwater.
"We're certainly hopeful about resolving this matter," said Stephen Gorden, North Yarmouth's water district trustee. "It was a great loss, especially for those who value historic preservation, and we want to make sure it doesn't happen again."
District officials have given the North Yarmouth Historical Society until Dec. 1 to do an archaeological study of the foundation area using hand tools, Palmer said.
Then the foundation will be filled to within 18 inches of the top.
Beckwith family members and archaeology experts have told Katie Murphy, the historical society's president, that there's probably little of historical value beneath the rubble that was dumped in the basement of the 30-foot-by-36-foot house.
Moreover, Murphy said, the historical society doesn't have the professional staff or money to do an archaeological dig in the time allowed.
"Basically, the house is gone," Murphy said Monday. "What we'd like to see happen now is a contribution (by the water district and its contractor) toward the larger effort to preserve the historical record of our town."
State law says that violating municipal land-use regulations, including doing work without a required permit, carries a fine of $100 to $5,000 per day, depending on individual circumstances.
The water district's violation stretched over 45 days, Palmer said, which could result in a fine of $4,500 to $225,000.
Dugas Trucking was involved for 15 days, Palmer said, which could result in a fine of $1,500 to $75,000.
Dugas Trucking estimated that the demolition would cost $10,000, district officials said.
"This is a teachable moment for people in Yarmouth and beyond," Murphy said. "When something like this happens, people need to stand up and take notice and make sure it doesn't happen again."
Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at: