The fate of the Baxter House, one of the North Shore’s oldest homes, continues to hang in the balance amid confusion about its owner’s intentions following recent damage from a fire.
Village officials said Monday that they have yet to receive formal plans for the two-story landmarked house, other than a recent notice that the owner intends to raze the centuries-old structure.
The Baxter House, the namesake of the Village of Baxter Estates, was purchased in 2003 by Flushing resident Sabrina Wu, who paid $990,000 for the property. Residents alarmed by the vacant home’s steady deterioration have criticized the village for a lack of aggressive enforcement of preservation laws.
Village officials said that while they share the community’s sorrow about the home’s dilapidated state, they have followed the “letter of the law.”
“They are asking us to step well beyond those [regulations] and enforce areas that the village should not enforce,” village trustee Christopher Ficalora said.
The village’s preservation law sets standards for maintenance and repair, with violations punishable by jail time or a fine of up to $1,000, according to the code. Wu has not been fined by the village.
Since Wu purchased the property, the village has issued multiple orders to remedy the home that are mired in appeals. Ficalora said the fire damage would nullify those requests, but that a new set of four orders to clean up the site in the wake of the Feb. 5 fire were issued Monday.
In January, Wu submitted an application to demolish the home and build a replica. The week before the blaze, Wu spoke of restoring the home, Ficalora said. A day after the fire, the pending application was withdrawn, though Wu’s attorney, A. Thomas Levin of Garden City-based Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein, indicated they will still seek a demolition permit.
“When and if Ms. Wu is ready to file any application with the village, she will do so, and the application will at that time be public information,” Levin said Monday in an email.
More than 600 people have signed an online petition to try to block the destruction of the home, which they say is an invaluable part of the village’s history.
Ficalora said residents misunderstand that the home is privately owned. “They feel as though it belongs to the community, and it doesn’t,” he said. “It belongs to the owner.”
The village sent out a community survey Monday polling residents about whether they would foot the bill to buy and restore the house, which would raise each homeowner’s property taxes by $6,270 over five years and more than $700 thereafter. The assessed value of the home is about $800,000, according to Nassau land records.
Village resident Michael Scotto said he was heartened that the village is exploring alternative options but questioned the bond’s amount and whether federal funding could be secured.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission will still hold a Wednesday meeting originally scheduled to discuss the withdrawn application. The meeting is at 7:30 p.m. at the Port Washington Library.