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Beacon School to Request Delay on Decision to Make the Orchard House into a Historic District

Officials from the school said the town's effort to create a historic district puts them in a bad position.

Officials from Beacon High School said they will ask the Historic District Commission tonight to agree to a deal that would prevent the historic Orchard House from being demolished for at least 3 years in return for stopping the effort to turn the property into a historic district.

Without such an agreement, the school will be forced to make a decision in the next few months, said Steve Tannenbaum, vice president of the board of the directors of the Walker School - which runs Beacon High School, at a meeting with officials and residents Tuesday night.

"We have rented trailers for two years and we thought we had two years to solve the problem," Tannenbaum said. "(The effort to make a historic district) it has taken away our ability to make a decision over a year or two. We need to make it in a month or two. We want to take a breath and come up with a solution."

Town Councilor Susan Falkoff said she and others worry that after the one-year demolition delay - the longest the Historical Commission can legally impose - the house will be knocked down.

Tannenbaum said school officials will make an "iron-clad guarantee" to not request a demolition permit for the historic house for at least three years. He hopes that would allow the school, town officials and residents to work together to save the Orchard House, Tannenbaum said.

Town Council President Mark Sideris said he would like to see a situation where the house is saved and stop it from deteriorating.

"It is not a benefit to the town to have a historic district and have a building that is not going to be preserved," Sideris said.

The agreement would protect only the front part of the Orchard House - the main house. Over the years there were six other additions to the home, which Tannenbaum said would be taken down.

"Only the front part of the building will be preserved," Tannenbaum said. "We intend to remove the rear portion."

Tannenbaum offered three scenarios where the Orchard House would be saved:

1) Find a museum, educational center or some other group to take over the building.

2) Turn the building into office space and lease it to a company or organization.

3) Move the house and attach it to the existing building as part of the expansion at Beacon High School.

The request for the two-year extension following the one-year demolition delay will be presented at tonight's Historic District Commission, at 7 p.m. in the Lower Hearing Room in Town Hall.

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