Kennebunk voters will cast ballots Nov. 2 on whether to release the town’s right of enforcement – one that it or the owners didn’t know existed until recently – on a deed covenant concerning Barnard Tavern.  The permitting process of the Historic Preservation Commission would remain in effect. Dan King photo

KENNEBUNK – Voters on Nov. 2 will decide whether to release the town’s right of enforcement of  a clause in a deed regarding the privately-owned Barnard Tavern property; decide whether to accept Longfellow Lane as a town way and act on a proposed zoning change.

Local question A asks voters to decide “whether to authorize the Town Manager and the Town Attorney to take the steps necessary to release the town’s right of enforcement of a covenant in a deed from Jo R. Johnson, Trustee of the Johnson Property Trust, to C & K Realty Corporation, dated Feb. 25, 2016, “the structure on the land being conveyed, the “Barnard Tavern,” so-called, may not be torn down” and is enforceable by the Town and the original Grantor of the deed.”

Local question B asks voters to decide whether to accept Longfellow Lane as a town way.

Local question C askes voters to decide if they wish to approve a zone change to Tax Map 46, Lot 40, and a portion of Tax Map 46, Lot 42 from Village Residential to Upper Square District. According to information provided by the town, David Trottier, representing 8 Summer Street LLC, purchased the town-owned triangle lot (Map 46, Lot 40) behind 8 Summer Street in June, and some back land from 10 Summer St. in 2020.

The property at 8 Summer St. is zoned Upper Square and the acquired properties are zoned Village Residential. Trottier is asking that all property be zoned Upper Square as he proposes to build apartments there.

At the Sept 14 select board meeting, five members of the board recommended all three questions be approved. Two members were absent.

As to the Barnard Tavern, at 9 Barnard Lane, the select board and town were unaware of the deed covenant until recently, as were the owners, Randy and Kari Gates, who purchased the property in February. The covenant was not outlined in the deed to the Gates from the immediate prior owners, as evidenced by documents on file at the York County Registry of Deeds. Town Manager Mike Pardue in June said the town was not aware of any information provided about the right of enforcement and had not located anything in its records about it.

Randy and Kari Gates applied to the Historic Preservation Commission for approval of a plan to deconstruct and reconstruct the old tavern, built in the 1790s, which has been vacant for the past several years. They have noted a report from a structural engineer they hired, engineer Joseph Leasure of L & L Structural Engineering, that outlines a number of structural issues, including deteriorating first floor sills that are unsafe in some locations; joists and beans on the second and third floor are “grossly inadequate and incapable of supporting the code stipulate loads for the intended use” and other issues, including “grossly deficient” roof framing and more.

Town attorney Natalie Burns told the board in July that removal of the right of enforcement would not take away the authority of the Historic Preservation Commission, and the Gates would need commission approval to proceed with any deconstruction and reconstruction.

Johnson in July told the board that if an independent evaluation showed the building was not salvageable, she would release the covenant.

The peer review report commissioned by the town dated Sept 21, from Christopher P. Williams Architects PLLC of Meredith, New Hampshire, noted it agreed to many conclusions of Leisure’s first report, “which described some areas of specific concern, and addressed the future need to design specific solutions to the problems identified.”

It took note of the existing deed covenant.

“As a whole, the building’s structure is in relatively sound condition and will be better once structural repairs are made to replace structural members that were removed by the owners (past and present) and/or have degraded to the point of failure due to moisture in the unconditioned basement,” the report concludes, in part. It goes on to conclude that “thoughtful design for renovating the Barnard Tavern may result in solutions that are more cost effective than an entirely new structure of similar size, especially given current pricing for new building materials,” and opines that “the building should be preserved.”

The Gates’ attorney, Kristin Collins, of Preti Flaherty, in an Oct. 7 letter to the select board, shared with the Post by Kari Gates, said she believed the report “vastly exceeded the scope of work agreed upon by the Gates,” and among other points said the building is unsafe and “growing more unstable by the day.”

The attorney went on to say that the Gates were withdrawing their application with the Historic Preservation Commission for deconstruction and reconstruction, will secure the building against entrance, and await the outcome of the Nov. 2 vote.

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