Historic Preservation Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals Discuss Unique Residence

The English Cottage styled home at 37 Hillside Avenue was built in 1911

A proposal to demolish and replace a unique residence at 37 Hillside Avenue found itself at the confluence of preservation values and development rights during consecutive board meetings on Thursday evening, April 8.

First, the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) determined that the property has enough historical significance to be subject to the town’s 18-month demolition delay, designed to provide a window of opportunity to move or reconfigure residences planned for teardown.

The HPC scheduled a public hearing for May 4, when townspeople may offer comments on the proposed redevelopment.  The Commission will consider whether to allow demolition to proceed, or to impose restrictions on a replacement structure.

At the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) meeting which took place immediately after the HPC decision, builder Nicholas Vercollone petitioned the ZBA to demolish the house and rebuild a similar house with proper code specifications.

The Vercollone and Koller families, under the organizational name 37 Hillside LLC, were denied a special permit at the ZBA meeting due to lack of information and were asked to return for a public hearing and continued discussion on May 13.

The partners purchased the house, hoping to restore it and bring it up to code. However, they found this impossible, with its deficiencies being too great. The lot is nonconforming in both overall lot size and frontage, prompting Vercollone to petition the ZBA for approval to demolish.

The house, a few hundred feet north of The Great Road, is an English cottage design, built in 1911. As Vercollone pointed out, it has many charming architectural details that he hopes to maintain in the new construction.

Building code issues in the house include headway above the staircase being too low, and ceiling and door heights below the minimum. The height of the ceiling rafters restricts correcting these, and outdated plumbing and electrical systems would hamper development, leading to the request for demolition, he said.

Vercollone’s plan for the new house matches the style of the current residence while substantially increasing its footprint. Additionally, the plan replaces the current detached garage with an attached two-car garage facing the street.

Architectural details to be retained would include many of the English stylings of the house, from external aspects like roofing to interior details like exposed beam ceilings.

When reviewing the plan, ZBA members noticed information missing from the proposal, including how changes in the water table will affect the new construction.

During a public comment section, community members voiced concerns, saying that it is part of the shift towards larger homes that will take away Bedford’s charm. Other general concerns included how aspects of the new development, like the larger facade, might affect the streetscape.

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Karl Winkler
April 12, 2021 4:50 pm

The same thing was said of 18 North road, they wanted to tear that house down to build something larger, giving the same reasons verbatim. Structural issues in the basement, Chimney that’s falling down, not to code stairs etc… Take a look at it today! 37 Hillside can be the same, with the right owner. Frankly, I am disappointed that they tried to pass off a center entrance McMansion with an altered roof line as a replacement. AT LEAST Try to match the windows and door placement to the original. I am no surprised that they want to tear it down its. It just like they said at 18 North Road. Bedford deserves better.

Doreen Mead
June 11, 2021 12:57 pm
Reply to  Karl Winkler

I’ll tell you Bedford is changing and not for the good I grew up in a two-bedroom house with one tub and shower and thank God for the toilet and sink upstairs they’re tearing down these beautiful historical houses and building MC mansions they bring a lot of taxes to the town but it’s ruining our town think about it people for god sakes all these contractors are making millions of dollars off these poor older people that have to sell their house for peanuts so they can quote unquote stay up with the time well if you’re a historical site you certainly aren’t thinking about history you’re thinking about the big Royal buck and it’s sad and shame on you all I have lived here all my life and I see the changes in Bedford and I do not like them they call it progress b******* it’s called tear down a historic house tear down that little cape tear down this house cuz it’s too old I am really upset with our administration and thank God I wasn’t at this meeting because you definitely would have heard my opinion thank you for your time and consideration
Doreen Mead

Ken Larson
April 12, 2021 9:24 am

It’s troubling that this gem should be torn down to make a profit.
It’s even more troubling, and disappointing that of all the people who want to move to Bedford so earnestly that they will spend over a million dollars for for a new house of questionable aesthetics no one could be found who would want to live in Bedford in such a lovely place. What has Bedford come to?

Daniel E. Silverman (former HPC member)
April 10, 2021 7:15 am

As a former member of the Historic Preservation Committee, (5 years) and the author of the 18 month demolition delay bylaw, this seems to me to be just another excuse to tear down a perfectly livable house! There are many houses in Bedford that are not up to code. This alone doesn’t warrant demolition! Also this is not the only house in Bedford with “low ceilings and doors!” This is not an “ancient” house and I’m sure neither the height of the doors or ceilings are perfectly adequate for a comfortable house! If this house is demolished, I would favor a similar house built on the same foundation! (This is the solution we worked out for 90 South Rd). Demolition of livable houses is a problem in many towns, if it’s old, if it’s affordable, etc., tear it down and build a McMansion. This is nothing more than greed of a developer to build a much larger, custom house that they can sell for a huge sum of money and give the property a higher tax rate! There is no house, new or old, that doesn’t need work of some kind! As with any other house, it should be sold as is, and any renovations should be up to the new owner. We need to stop tearing down these good, livable houses that might also be perfect, as well as an affordable home for first home buyers. This house should not be torn down just to build a larger house!

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