2007-11-05 Preservation Durham letter to Durham City Council

From Issuepedia

Dear City Council Members:

Preservation Durham is seeking your assistance in preserving a local landmark, the Clifton and Leah Garrett Farmstead as you review the Development Plan at your meeting on November 19th. This farm is recognized in the Planning Department's Durham County Historic Inventory as being one of the most important of the 420 identified historically significant properties and is currently in danger of being lost. The house can easily be preserved in place, preserving a major segment of the community history of southwest Durham.

Why it is Important to Preserving the Garrett Farm in Place:

  • It could be a defining landmark for the development;
  • It adds interest and value to the development, distinguishing it from generic tract developments;
  • This is a rare property in Southwest Durham as many historic farmsteads have already been lost to new development. This trend should not be allowed to continue. Six historic houses have been lost during the past five years in this small section of Durham between 15-501 and the City Boundary;
  • It preserves the historic context of an area that was once farm land;
  • It preserves the archeological significance on the farmhouse site, and
  • It is the most feasible and historically desirable way to preserve the farmhouse.

Through conversations with Trammel Crow Residential (TCR) and area residents we are convinced that preservation of this structure is feasible. Given the current development plan, the existing layout would not be adversely affected by the preservation of the historic landmark. In fact, empirical data from similar projects show the preservation of the house and some of the outbuildings would be an enhancement. Planning has also confirmed that this is a viable alternative by parceling out the site as a single family lot.

During a meeting with Mark Bowles of the Trammel Crow Residential development team and community members, Mr. Bowles stated that the house was examined by preservation architect Eddie Belk, who found that the house to be in very good shape with the kitchen and bath updated. Given this information, the feasibility of preserving the house in place is increased as it does not require extensive rehabilitation.

Given Preservation Durham’s previous experience in selling properties with protective covenants, this historic farmhouse would be very desirable and should sell quickly. It is in a popular area. Preservation Durham was very successful in selling the nearby, severely deteriorated and vacant [[White Cross Community Center]] on Erwin Road within a month of listing. We received three solid offers, resulting in a bidding war.

Since the house would be sold with protective covenants, these covenants would be negotiated with TCR to address the concerns TCR raised about the appearance and maintenance of the property in addition to the protection of the house and site. Preservation Durham has an inspection program for its protected properties to ensure compliance.

In summary:

  • Preservation Durham finds that moving this house is a poor alternative,
  • Given the intact nature of the site,
  • The good condition of the house, and
  • The attractiveness of the area in which this property is currently located.
  • Moving historic properties is a choice of last resort.

Given the conversation between the interested parties, preservation in place is a very feasible option. Preservation Durham seeks to avoid moving houses, and in this situation it is completely avoidable.

Sincerely yours,

John H. Compton
Executive Director

Ellen Dagenhart
President