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Pop’s window removal irks board

By Jennifer L. Saunders
[email protected]

October 26, 2005 YORK BEACH, MAINE- Although an effort to give the Victorian-era Atlantic House a new lease on life will not be before the Planning Board until next month, issues around that plan will be discussed tomorrow night.

At the end of its regular meeting on Thursday, Oct. 27, the Planning Board is scheduled to discuss the proposed Atlantic House renovation.

Architect John DeStefano, who is working on the project with the property’s owner, Don Rivers, fielded questions from Town Planner Steve Burns and members of the board regarding the removal of windows at the site.

At the board’s Oct. 13 meeting, the Planning Board gave the applicant the go-ahead for interior work at the site and asbestos remediation, stating that no external demolition should be done before the board’s approval of the plan.

The application is scheduled to be before the board at its Nov. 10 meeting but, as DeStefano explained, the goal is to complete the project - if it wins board approval - prior to the busy summer tourism season in York Beach.

To those ends, Rivers had requested permission from the board for interior work and asbestos removal.

Because of health concerns, the asbestos removal is necessary before any other work can begin, DeStefano explained.

And that is where the question of the windows comes in.

During last week’s meeting, Burns notified the board that windows - which he said often carry historic significance in renovation projects such as this one - had been removed from the building most commonly known as Pop’s Shell Shack.

DeStefano said asbestos was found in portions of the windows, making it necessary to remove them.

"There is some asbestos in some of the roofing materials on the porch. Those have to come off as well," he said. "We’re also in the building putting in bracing so it’s more safe than it was before."

The three Planning Board members present at last week’s meeting disagreed on the magnitude of the issue of removing the windows, but did reach the consensus that any exterior work - whether related to asbestos or not - should be stopped until the board can discuss the issue with more members present.

Chairman Barrie Munro acknowledged that DeStefano had asked for permission to begin with asbestos removal, but added the board was not aware that included windows and exterior materials being removed.

Member Tom Manzi said the applicant’s actions showed contempt for the Planning Board’s constraint that they not "do anything to the exterior of the building until the plan is approved ... I think they pushed the envelope beyond the agreement we had with them. What we’ve got is ... something that looks like a crack house."

DeStefano pointed out that the windows will be replaced, and the removal is only temporary as part of the remediation efforts.

"There’s definitely some misunderstandings here, but we’re not here to mislead anybody. ... I said the first thing we needed to do was asbestos abatement," DeStefano said. "We’re making progress toward hopefully an end goal."

Because of the board’s concerns about exterior work before approval, Burns said the applicant should have been clear about the presence of asbestos in the window materials.

Richard Smith of the Planning Board suggested that interior work on the project be allowed to continue, but all exterior work cease until the board has had time to review its prior decision, adding it is better for all concerned for materials like asbestos to be removed.

If the Atlantic House project is approved, the 19th-century hotel will be renovated to include stores on the first floor, a year-round restaurant on the second story and residential condominiums on the top two floors.

For the project to move forward, however, several issues must be addressed, including a determination from the Historic District Commission as to the historical significance of the site.

To receive special exceptions associated with historical conversions, such as residential density, the applicant will need to keep the historic structures and not replace them with new buildings, Burns said.

The Planning Board will discuss the issues in more detail when it meets Thursday night at 7 p.m. at York Public Library.

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