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Zoning board lifts protections for historic Babylon Village home

The Babylon Village Zoning Board of Appeals voted

The Babylon Village Zoning Board of Appeals voted Wednesday, March 15, 2017, in favor of lifting restrictions that protect this Revolutionary War-era home on Deer Park Avenue from demolition. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

The Babylon Village Zoning Board of Appeals voted Wednesday night to lift restrictions protecting a Revolutionary War-era home on Deer Park Avenue from demolition.

The vote struck a blow to efforts to preserve the 18th century farmhouse, which some village residents view as historically significant but others say is derelict and a haven for animals.

For Chase Ognibene, who purchased the property in 2012, the vote represents a major hurdle cleared in his long-standing goal to install new homes there.

“We’re ready to build,” said Ognibene, 30, who described the board’s decision as a relief.

“We were ready to build for a long time,” he said.

Ognibene has already constructed and sold one house on the subdivided site, he said, and the foundation for a second has been laid.

But building the second and third homes has been held up for years while local resistance to demolishing the old farmhouse has grown.

Ognibene noted that it was the village itself that originally stipulated the old structure’s demolition when he purchased the property.

Zoning board chairman Bruce E. Humenik declined to say after the vote why the board approved lifting the demolition restriction, saying that the reasons are elaborated in a statement of findings prepared by the board’s legal counsel.

Those findings will not be public record until Friday, Humenik said.

Tearing down the home would count as a serious loss to the village’s architectural heritage, Babylon Town Historian Mary Cascone said, given the building’s unique features and back story.

The original wing of the two-and-a-half-story home was built around 1790 by David Smith, a soldier in the Revolutionary War and a farmer, according to an approved 2012 application for the home to be considered eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

The wood-frame farmhouse with interlocking joints is a rarity in the area today, Cascone said.

“They’ve all but disappeared,” said Cascone, who called the prospect of demolition “very sad.”

Ognibene and surrogates have argued that the cost of restoring or moving the home would be prohibitive, given its poor condition.

Ognibene, who co-owns a pair of hair salons in Babylon and Brooklyn, has lived in the home for more than four years. He said birds have nested in the walls and the termite damage is extensive.

As a compromise, Ognibene has proposed building a replica of the home on the site — a suggestion that historians like Cascone say is insufficient.

Nevertheless, that is the plan that Ognibene said he intends to pursue — demolition of the old home included.

“We hope that we can start building,” he said.

“We’re ready to go. ”

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