Demolition proposal demolished

The Ramone’s one-story 19th century house on Village Lane in Orient.

History was preserved, but not made, in Town Hall this week.

Southold’s Historic Preservation commission gave a unanimous thumbs down Tuesday to Claudia and Julien Ramone’s request to demolish a one-story 19th century house on Village Lane in Orient. The Ramones want to build a larger, more modern structure. Although the commissioners’ chairman has described the house as “nondescript” and “lackluster,” the panel determined that the demolition would be a severe blow to the character of that part of Orient, which is within separate town and federal historic districts.

The Ramones’ application was the first ever in Southold that called for tearing down a structure in a historic district.

The vote was 6-0. Douglas Constant, who said he’s a close friend of the family, recused himself.

The commission’s ruling came as no surprise. In comments made during last month’s demolition request hearing, a majority of commission members voiced concerns about the long-term impacts on Village Lane. The two-story house proposed for the lot “could be built anywhere in America,” said member Barbara Schnitzler. “And that’s the point.”

She reiterated that concern during Tuesday’s meeting.

“The precedent is a big issue for us,” she said. Once a building is demolished, “the character of the district and the importance of the district goes with it.”

Commission member Ronald Rossi said demolition approval was only the first of many potential pitfalls the Ramones faced. Historic commission approval would also be needed for the new house design. And since the circa 1848 house sits on an undersized lot, any new construction would require a number of variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

“We’re not the land of no,” Mr. Rossi said. “We want to do the right thing for the property.”

Commission chairman James Grathwohl echoed that. “We advocate for the house, not for the owners,” he said.

In addition to filing plans to expand the existing house, the Ramones can petition the Town Board to overturn the commission’s ruling.

Calls to the Ramones for comment were not immediately returned.

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