Andrew Earle of Windham has a plan to turn the historic structure at 8 College Ave. in Gorham into eight apartments. Robert Lowell / American Journal

Developer Andrew Earle’s plan to turn a 218-year-old Gorham house into apartments has run afoul of the Gorham Historic Preservation Commission twice in two weeks, but he hopes to make things right, beginning with an appeal to the panel next week.

First Earle tore down an ell attached to the historic house at 8 College Ave. without proper permission, then he built a new ell 16 inches taller than the original, he said Wednesday.

The historic 8 College Ave. in Gorham. Contributed / Suzanne Phillips

He’ll go before the commission on April 5 to ask that the extra 16 inches be accepted.

“It’s a pretty minor request,” said Earle, of Windham, a residential builder who also buys existing homes and fixes them up to sell.

Renovating the burned-out house in the Gorham Historic District near the University of Southern Maine campus is his first historical project, he said.

Earle plans to remodel the house into eight apartments, which he hopes to have ready to rent out in the fall. He bought the property for $175,000 and his renovations could cost in the vicinity of $1 million, he said.

Demolition of the two-story ell raised a red flag.

A town ordinance requires Historic Preservation Commission approval to demolish or move a building at a historic site or in a historic district.

A rendering of the renovated house showing a third story. Contributed / Gorham Historic Preservation Commission

“He didn’t go through the right channels,” Bruce Roullard, historic commission chairperson, told the American Journal last week.

The ell was not safe and workers couldn’t get on the roof, Earle said, so the contractor, Deane MacBeth, made an “executive decision” to tear it down and rebuild the walls.

“It’s my fault,” Earle said last week. “I didn’t communicate with him. We made a mistake, but we’ll get back on track.”

Earle had earlier applied for a demolition permit from the town’s Code Enforcement Office, but the permit approved by Gorham Code Officer Freeman Abbott specified “closing in only and make watertight.”

When Roullard learned the ell was demolished, he notified Abbott, who confirmed it and issued a stop work order.

According to minutes of the March 23 historic commission meeting, “Andrew (Earle) also said the outside walls had gone up on the ell where they were previously. Freeman (Abbott) said that in addition, interior walls, stairs, etc. had gone in, much more work than was appropriate at this stage because what had been issued so far was permission just to make the building weather tight.”

The historic commission on March 23 granted Earle demolition approval “after the fact” and authorized a certificate of appropriateness for the replacement ell as long as it matched the same design, footprint and dimensions of the original.

The original was 25 feet long, 16 feet wide and 18 feet high. It turns out the new ell, measured after the meeting, is 19 feet, 4 inches tall.

“Now, we have an issue,” Earle said.

A rendering of proposed front showing a third story Contributed / Gorham Historic Preservation Commission

He’ll return to the board for review. He still needs to receive building permits from the town.

The finished product will have black shutters and white, vinyl siding.

“I promise when it’s all done you’ll be proud of it,” Earle told the historic commission last week.

Alexander McLellan, a Gorham storekeeper and postmaster, built the main house in 1803. It was restored in 1948 by then-owner Agnes Owens, according to the Gorham Historical Society.

Fire ravaged the structure in December 2016 and it has been boarded up since. Earle acquired it from Great Falls Construction, a subsequent owner after the fire.

Earle’s request for approval of converting the single-family house to apartments went to the Planning Board March 1; his proposal was discussed and postponed.

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