August 14, 2009
 
ZBA says 'No' to demolition

By JILLIAN JORGENSEN


GOFFSTOWN - A local man who wants to demolish a house he owns within the town's historic district was denied the right to do so again last week, this time by the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Robert E. Naser said he plans to appeal the board's unanimous decision.

"I understand those things. I understand how people are; they see it one way and that's the way. So, we'll just press on," he said.

The Historic District Commission first denied his request to tear down the home in June, but allowed him to demolish a garage and barn. 

The Mast Road home has been vacant for four years, Naser said.

At previous hearings it was said the home was built around 1850s, but in an interview last week Naser said other experts had told him it may have been built in the 1900s. It is in one of Goffstown's three historic districts, which include 10 private homes.

"The house itself has no history to it," Naser said. He also owns a large piece of property surrounding it that is part of the district.

"They've got the whole 90 acres in the historical part," he said. "Was there a battle fought on that property?" Naser said he received two appraisals for fixing the home, one at $482,000 and another at $481,000, not including "anything on the outside," or the septic system.

"You're looking at half a million dollars and I don't feel that the house is worth it," said Naser, who works in real estate development. "At some point I think there will be some common sense." But the board said the home was in the district when Naser bought it in the 1980s.

"When he purchased the property it had already been in the historic district for two years at that time, and (the board) felt that he should have been aware of that and then the responsibility that came with it," said Derek Horne, the town's zoning code enforcement official, who is not a member of the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Horne said the board also felt that Naser had not demonstrated that he had made attempts to substantially improve the home.

Elizabeth Dubrulle, chairman of the Historic District Commission, said Naser had never filed for any building permits or certificates of appropriateness, which are needed to do substantial work on the house.

"The rules were in place when he bought it, and yet he still thinks he should get the exception," she said.

There has also been speculation that tearing down the home could be the first step to develop the large property, Dubrulle said.

Naser plans to appeal again. Horne said he has to ask the Zoning Board of Adjustment for a rehearing within 30 days. If the ZBA denies the rehearing, the next step is an appeal to Superior Court.

Dubrulle said she is sorry the home has been a hardship on Naser, but said nobody is forcing him to make repairs.

"Nobody is forcing him to fix it up right now," she said. "If he wants to rent it tomorrow, he could, there's nothing stopping it." But Naser said he believes the house is uninhabitable and he is not comfortable renting it.

"There are problems there that could possibly hurt people, and that's my concern," he said.

Horne said it is ultimately a matter of balance: while some experts speaking on behalf of Naser to the Historic District Commission had said the house was not that important architecturally, people in the neighborhood and the district had argued it was important to the town's history.

"Saving that and maintaining that is important, but you also have to balance that against the property owner's right to do what he wants with his property," Horne said. "That's what the zoning board is trying to do."

 

READER RESPONSES

Half a million bucks to finish this house?
As an out of work carpenter. Im pretty sure I could do it on a budget of 250k.And still make a substantial paycheck at the end.
Sounds like those estimates were beefed up a little.
- Charlie, Litchfield
 
I have not read the Goffstown historic district ordinance. Have any of you prior posters done so? Many of you seem to assume that the ordinance clearly forbids demolition of the house, and/or that the historic district commission has correctly interpreted the ordinance in this case. Local boards often interpret ordinances as they would like them to be written, not as they actually are written.

And even if the historic district ordinance was correctly interpreted, justice might dictate that there are special circumstances that should allow demolition of the structure. The job of the ZBA is to render a quasi-judicial verdict based on statutes and case law, balancing the particular facts of the situation against the spirit of the ordinance.

It's just not black and white.
- Curt Springer, Danville
 
"At some point I think there will be some common sense."

umm. I wouldn't hold your breath on that one.
- Justin, Manch
 
Bottom line!!!!!... this individual has a property in a recognized historic district, didn't maintain it, and now wants to develop it...The community granted him his wish to demolish some of the outbuildings...They, not him, have already compromised...

There comes a time when one must respect the rights of the community...The rights of nearby property owners whose property values are effected by his indifference...He was a poor steward and now, like those who owned high gas consumption cars now benefitting from the "Clunkers" car bill, expects to be rewarded... I say no!

Rep. Steven Lindsey
Ches-3
Keene, NH
- TaxiManSteve, Keene
 
It is sad that people don't seem to understand "Historic Districts" I live in this district, I voted for this district, my house value is only in it's "Antiquity", the district has helped keep the "status quo". I would like to add that the house that Mr Nasser wants to down is not fit to be inhabited and really has been in a long time. I have been in the house many times, it is not liviable by anyones standards. The only wiring is "Knob and tubing" every bit of it. It is a problem, but don't knock "Historic Districs".
- Carroll Berg, Goffstown NH
 
First of all, Mr. Naser should be ashamed that he let the property fall into such a state of disrepair. If he has owned it since the 1980's then he has plenty of time to perform the neccessary repairs. I think Mr. Naser's main concern is he wants to develope the land and I think that the people and town officials in Goffstown should satand up to him and say No way. It was a historic district when he bought the land and he knew it and he knew what the rules were then. I Rhode Island there are very strict guidelines for the buyer of a home in a historic district, especially if the house some historic significance. Why doesn't Mr. Naser apply for funding from the National HIstorical Sociaety to help with the cost of renovations?
- Steve Micke, Freedom
 
I meant to write "no impact fees being assessed on developers" not "by". Oops.
- Texter, Newfields
 
Small town politics at it's finest! Perhaps he should have bought in Kingston, where the historic committee has no regard for the "rules" when the exception benefits committee members.
- MS, Kingston
 
BH, Goffstown,
Ahem, my parents were living in Exeter when I was born, and moved to another town in NH thereafter. I am a NH native.

I wonder if the issue of having problems paying taxes is due to high taxes caused by people moving into your town as a result of lax zoning that allowed willy-nilly building and no impact fees being assessed by developers? Could you put 10 of the 12 acres into current use and get a reduction in taxes? Or, sell a conservation easement to the town or state?

I find it interesting that many who espouse property rights on the one hand complain when someone exercises those rights, sells the land in the smallest possible parcels to maximize their profit with the result being people from somewhere else coming in and wanting more. Actually, I find it funny to see them hoist on their own petard. Can't have your cake and eat it, too.
- Texter, Newfields
 
And this why you should NEVER allow any Hysterical District to be set in any town or city.
Unless THEY have the money to fix it, they shouldn't be telling anyone what to do with their property.
I would never let a bunch of snooty history buffs tell me that I have to spend more than what the property is worth to fix it up.
He bought the house in the 80's and it has been vacant for 4 years. If the HDC was so worried about the property, they should have stepped in years ago before the property got so bad.
I love how these blowhards think they can tell everyone what to do.
Here's an option, find a family that totally doesn't fit in with the town (I think you know what I mean) and let them live there for free. It won't be long before you get a permit to demolish.
Works every time!
- Pauline, Franklin
 
The "history" of this house is debatable. In California, "Architectural Review Boards" decide whether you have rights to your home and land. Their motto: We don't need no stinkin' history. Fellow New Hampshirites, be very afraid when you hear politicians and bureaucrats gush about "cultural heritage"--that could be ANYTHING.
- Spike, Brentwood NH
 
Texter mused:

"It has kept the quaint town that we moved to back then quaint today."

Yep, shut the door after YOU move in.

Typical non-native NH resident.

I was born in NH, and after my parents recently passed they left us with 12 acres of land in southern NH.

The land heas been in my family for nearly 60 years, and we can't afford the taxes.

I can't wait for all of those people 'who moved to NH for the quiet life' to speak up to prevent any development.

I've seen this house in Goffstown, it's a dilapidated piece of crap, an eyesore, and a home for lots of stray cats, etc.
- BH, Goffstown
 
He was aware of the rules and regs when he bought the house.
- Sam, Goffstown
 
The solution to this nonsense is a match.
- Mike, Bedford
 
Doesn't sound like the zoning board or the 'historic' commission has any intention of changing their mind. If the house is simply old, who cares. Did Lincoln sleep there? Did George Washington sleep there?

Who in there right mind would spend a half a million to 'fix' a 'home'.

If something is termed 'historic', doesn't it have to have some connection to an actual person of note or event of the era?

If old is all you need, then I got a pair of jeans that should be on the historic register.
- john, goffstown
 
If he can't take it down, he should research the most obnoxious, yet historically accurate, color he can find and paint the whole house so everyone can enjoy it!
- MS, Litchfield
 
This surprises you why? This is just another example of Goffstown politics. Not one of them knows what they are doing, and believe me, not one of them cares about a single resident. If it was one of them that wanted to do this, it wouldn't have been an issue.
- Dawn, Goffstown, NH
 
When he bought the property it came with certain restrictions. If he failed to find out the extent of those restrictions that is his fault. Why is it that some people feel that they should be above the law?
- Jeff, Manchester
 
If you are ever thinking of buying a house in any "hysterical" district, DON"T. You will be under the thumb of the local government forever, needing to get variances to paint, plant trees, put up a fence, etc. I would rather bang my head repeatedly into a wall than deal with these people.
- Wayne S, Manchester
 
If he didn't want the restictions, he shouldn't have bought in that area. You know what your getting yourself into when you purchase an old home, repairs. To all those that are up in arms over this, no one forced him to purchase the property, he knew the the rules and regulations at the time of purchase.
- SAM, KINGSTON
 
What will they do when time and the elements bring this property to the ground, sue God?
- Craig D, Manchester
 
He knew the law when he bought the property.
- Sam, Goffstown
 
Perhaps Nasser ought to take the position that the Commission and therefore the Town, since it will not let him do what he wishes with his property, has just "taken" his property and therefore they should be forced to compensate him for it.

That ought to really please the taxpayers in this economy.
- Bill, Bedford NH
 
This debate is solely reliant on the contract the owner signed or didnít sign. Letís see the paperwork. If he signed it and it says that the house cannot be demolished, then tough luck. If it doesnít say anything about demolishing it or he didnít sign it, than let him destroy it, and let it be a lesson on contractual agreements for Goffstown.

I think if these boards exist to keep the integrity of the town, the people that buy historic homes should get tax break. They are entering a partnership with the town and neither party owns the entire rights to the property. A tax break would be an incentive for the buyer.
- Ben N, Manchester
 
This is just a not-so-subtle reminder that no one really owns property as long as the government can take it, tax it, or tell you what to do with it.
- Tim, Candia
 
The state laws allowing historic districts to be locally regulated completely conform to the NE idea of local control. This isn't the federal government or the state telling a property owner what to do -- this is your town, your neighbors, deciding what to do.

If you don't like the regulations and oversight, don't buy a property in an historic district.
- YM, concord
 
It's all nice to think about our property rights, but there are always compromises, aren't there? How about setback laws? Every town has them. Are they infringing on individual rights? How about height restrictions, business zones, etc.? Do they infringe on what you can do? How would you feel if someone decides to put up an incinerator 15 feet from your house? You wouldn't want to infringe on that, would you? It's that company's right to do whatever that want with their property, isn't it? Of course it isn't. You can bet the property rights people would be yelling a different protest to every town board and commission if someone wanted to do that right next door to *their* house.

It's the same with this historic district. The town wants to keep an area looking like a small New England town. Maybe they should work with this guy to make sure he replaces his house with something that fits in, and not some condo complex. But it's not something they just drew up last week.

If you want property rights, you have the right to buy somewhere else. But wherever you go, don't whine about the rules to fit your idea of what's right and what's not.
- Marc, Derry
 
Anyone that knows Bob knows he respects historic value but the home in question is beyond repair and holds no historic value! He is a reasonable man and I believe they should allow him to make his own decision about his own property, as a resident of goffstown I think it is absolutely ridiculous what their asking of him, yet they dont ask of other in the quote "historic community" whos houses are in shambles and are in the center of goffstown
- Corrine, Goffstown, NH
 
He could always just do it anyways and then just pay a fine...what are they going to do make him rebuild it??

Or there could always be a "construction accident"
- jenny, manchester
 
It's just another example of government getting in your face and telling you what to do. When will the oppression end?
- Bill, Tuftonboro
 
People people people....please we all know it is better to drive down the main street in town and see a building/house that is trashed and in ruin then to see a building/house that has been fixed up and looks good...oh and Texter enjoy your quaint little town where it is just the locals and "outsiders" are not made to feel welcome...so 1900's of you...
- DJ, Goffstown
 
What a classic example of we your government appointed officials know what is best. After all Mr. Naser only bought and pays the taxes on this house. Why that would give him some kind of right to do with it as he wants is just silly in the eyes of those who know better. But keep paying the taxes or we may take it from you and send you prison with Mr. Brown.

Can we all go to the houses of the Historic Commission and tell them what to do with their properties?
- Deb, Derry
 
Well so much for freedom. I guess after all we are all controled by our oficials one way or another so we are not free as we think.

If its my property I should do what I please with it but since they won't make any money with it demolish then the answer is NO figures.
- Dan, Manchester
 
It's not a flagrant violation of private property rights, it's allowed by law. Back in the 60's, my parents and a few others in the town we lived in set up historic districts and introduced zoning laws. It has kept the quaint town that we moved to back then quaint today.

I'll bet that some of you complainers will put on your "Go back to Massachusetts" hat when this guy cuts his land up, sells it to whomever wants to buy it, and they then want more services to be provided by the town and state. You'll be really happy then, won't you, as long as you have something to complain about and nothing positive to contribute.
- Texter, Newfields
 
The real bottom line is that these historic districts, and the rules, are well known when buying, and they're the law. People should know what they're buying into. Or perhaps he did know and took advantage of a lower price due to the fact it was in a historic district.

I don't agree with those laws, as they should be more flexible to allow for individual assessments. So change the law and work with that. Buying into a known environment and planning to fight it later is kind of like buying near an airport and expecting them to add soundproofing. Do your homework.
- Marc, Derry
 
New Hampshire's laws that enable local communities to establish historic districts, were probably originally well intentioned, but have little consideration for individual rights. Private property is private property, is private property. If these commissions want to control historic properties, then, these communities should wave the property tax bills. That would probably cure the problem.
- Ted Ryll, Winchester
 
What a flagrant violation of private property rights. The people of Goffstown should repeal this stupid Historic law immediately.
- mike, cornish
 
Giving government control of your private property by allowing the formation of Historic commisions was the mistake made years ago. Think long and hard folks before giving "boards" who "know" better than you any control over your personal property. They don't call then Histerical commisions for nothing.
- mark, derry nh
 
I disagree with the power these historic district commissions have. Homeowners and business owners in these districts often have severe restrictions placed on their properties ranging from the color you must paint a building to the use you can make of the property. However, they're is no relief given through a reduction in the real estate taxes they pay.
- Brian, Farmington
 
The same old thing, Let the town buy it if they are so concerned of its historical value And we all have a right to do what we want with our homes that we pay taxes on,right the same old bull.Taxation with out representation. And this is America a free nation.
- rb, rochester
 
Always easier to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission!
Too late for that
- Chip, Wilton
 
If the Historic District Commission refuses to let the home owner demolish his substandard house, perhaps the Historic District Commission should pay to rehabilitate the house?
- Gus, Manchester
 
Bottom line --- He owns It -- its future should be HIS decision!!
- tomgnh, manchester
 

 




 

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