The Newton Historical Commission late last month approved “local landmark” status for a pre-Civil War home on West Newton Hill that has been at the center of a debate over property rights versus historic preservation.
With the landmark status in place, any proposed demolition or alteration to the exterior of 128 Chestnut St. would have to go through the Historical Commission, said Katy Hax Holmes, the city’s senior planner.
Listed for sale at just under $2.7 million, the circa-1855 home sits on nearly an acre of land and features 13 rooms, an exterior framed by a piazza, and a central turret offering a wide view of the front yard.
Property owner Mordechai Hodis was able to find a buyer willing to pay the asking price, but only if a new owner had the ability to alter, move, or demolish the house, the Globe reported in May.
In recent weeks, Hodis and city officials had been discussing a compromise, said his attorney, Edward McCarthy. Hodis was working on a deal with a buyer who hoped to preserve the house, move it forward on the lot, and make room for a second home on the property, McCarthy said.
Hodis is frustrated by how this process has turned out, and is considering his options, McCarthy said.
“He followed what were the rules and regulations of the city of Newton, and thought he was going forward in good faith,” McCarthy said.
Hodis had applied for permission for a demolition permit, and completed the city’s 18-month demolition delay period before an older home can be knocked down. In May, he was issued partial demolition permits, but agreed to not exercise them before the commission’s meeting June 28 meeting, according to Historical Commission filings.
City Councilor-at-Large Andrea Kelley, along with fellow Ward 3 councilors James Cote and Barbara Brousal-Glaser, had opposed a teardown of the house, and earlier this year requested the Historical Commission to consider designating the property as a local landmark.
On June 28, the Historical Commission voted 5-1 to designate the house a local landmark, according to Holmes. It joins 21 other properties in Newton with that status, she said.
Kelley said city councilors had hoped the Historical Commission would postpone a landmark vote until a board meeting in late July. She said she hopes a compromise preserving the home will still be reached.
“I definitely hope they will continue down that path,” Kelley said.
Hodis had scheduled a July 10 meeting with city officials, McCarthy said. But with the landmark status vote, such a meeting is now moot, he said.
“We were quite surprised that they landmarked it immediately” at the June 28 meeting, he said.
It is unclear whether a sale of the property will move ahead with the current buyer, McCarthy said.John Hilliard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.