Kennebunk residents voted Tuesday to authorize the town to release its right of enforcement of a deed covenant that prevents the historic Barnard Tavern from being torn down.

Town officials put the question on the ballot after they became aware of the covenant when the current owners submitted a request to deconstruct and reconstruct the 230-year-old building. Owner Kari Gates, who says the building is not structurally sound because of damage from a fire in the 1970s and years of deterioration, wants to rebuild the house to look exactly the same from the outside using as many original materials as possible.

Residents voted 3,180 to 617 in favor of pursing the necessary steps to release the town’s right of enforcement.

But the vote does not necessarily mean that the owners will be able to move forward with their plan. The deed restriction can only be released by former owner Jo Johnson, who has said she would do so only if the town’s Historic Preservation Commission determines the building is beyond repair.

Any work proposed on the exterior of the home must be approved by the commission. Gates withdrew her application to deconstruct the building until the deed issue could be sorted out.

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