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OWNER SEEKS BUYER AFTER BOARD DECIDES
1840S-ERA HOME IS NOT A LANDMARK

Now that the Amherst Town Board has decided not to bestow historical landmark status on a 1840s-era stone house on Main Street, the owner is hoping to find a buyer for the home.

If that doesn't happen in the next six months, owner Joseph Farage said Tuesday he'll consider demolishing the building.

"I hope to sell it," Farage said. "I really am not looking forward to demolishing it. If I can't sell in six months, perhaps I will consider demolition. It is a perfect place on Main Street for a medical complex."

But under a verbal agreement he has with the town, Farage will first notify Amherst officials and give them a chance to try to save all or part of the historic building.

Based on that agreement, the Town Board voted Monday against giving the building a historic designation that would make it difficult, if not impossible, to demolish.

Supervisor Susan J. Grelick suggested that money going toward demolition could instead go toward moving the stone building to the Amherst Museum.

"We voted not to designate it, but to ask the owners before anything is done, to work with the town so that we can make some arrangement to see if we can move it to the museum, the house of parts of the house," said Grelick. "We don't want it demolished."

But Farage said moving the building is likely impossible because the stone house is not on a foundation.

"You couldn't jack it up," Farage said. "There's no foundation under the stones. The stones go into the ground. My stone walls go right to bedrock."

Museum Director Lynn Beman estimated it could cost $70,000 to $90,000 to move the building. Farage said it could be demolished for $12,000.

If the building is demolished, Farage said he would be glad to make sure some of the stones would be carefully handled so they could be given to the Amherst Museum.

"They can have all the stones they want," he said.

Beman said the stones could be used to re-create an icehouse from the era or to put together a quarry exhibit.

Farage's home, at 1690 Main St., was built 155 years ago by Elizabeth and Martin Metz, Mennonite farmers. It is one of a handful of stone houses of the kind remaining in the town, and the only one on Main Street.

Descendants of the Metz family led a movement to have the home designated a local historical landmark. With that designation, the town's Historic Preservation Commission would have to approve demolition or exterior alternations.

Farage says he cannot afford to maintain the home and has been trying to sell it, but the threatened historic designation has made it impossible to sell.

He was pleased with Monday's vote.

"I think common sense prevailed," Farage said Tuesday. "The (local historic preservation) law as it is written is too restrictive. The owner becomes a taxpaying tenant in his own property, with control given to the municipality."

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