Owner will not raze old Smith Farm house

Feb 17, 2021 by

Published February 17, 2021

By DAN TOMASELLO

LYNNFIELD — The attorneys representing the owner of Smith Farm, 163 Lowell St., told the Historical Commission last week the owner wants to preserve the home.

Former residents John and Heather Sievers sold Smith Farm to Boston Clear Water Company for $860,000 in November 2019. After the house was sold and conveyed to Virgil Lynnfield Properties, LLC, manager Paul Marchionda applied for a demolition permit last June that sought to raze the home. The proposal led to a backlash from residents and the Historical Commission, which subsequently placed a demolition delay on the property last July.

THE OWNER OF Smith Farm, 163 Lowell St., is looking to preserve the historic home. (Dan Tomasello Photo)

The Historical Commission requested the Select Board to include a warrant article for last year’s October Town Meeting that would have given the board the authority to take the old Joseph Smith house by eminent domain. Marchionda withdrew the demolition permit two days before the fall session, which resulted in October Town Meeting voting to indefinitely postpone Article 5.

Atty. Brian McGrail told the Historical Commission that BCW owner Anthony Gattineri is interested in placing a restrictive covenant on the property.

“It would just be like Centre Farm,” said McGrail. “The key component before doing this is identifying aspects of that structure that are important to the commission. I know there were some additions put on and I know the commission had a site visit there this past December. We are interested in hearing from the commission about what parts and aspects of the building are important. We could then craft a restrictive covenant around that.”

McGrail said the commission has time to work on crafting the pact because he said Gattineri is “not planning on tearing the property down.”

“We are here to work with the commission,” said McGrail. “Usually, the restrictive covenant would identify certain maintenance things that can happen by-right. We would identify those as well as identify things that would need to come back to the commission in the event certain work needs to be done on the property.”

Historical Commission Chairman Kirk Mansfield said, “The whole structure is important.” He asked if Gattineri is looking to increase the size of the home or is looking to decrease its size.

“There is no desire to do anything with it right now,” said McGrail. “Covenants are a good thing to protect the property, but in many respects it could impact the market value of the property when he goes to sell it.”

Atty. Julie Connolly noted there is a wing located on the right side of the home that Gattineri believes was built in the 1990s.

“Mr. Gattineri and Mrs. Gattineri have no interest in taking that addition off, but we believe that addition was added on in the 1990s,” said Connolly. “We are looking for the commission to provide some guidance about what is original and what is new.”

Historical Commission member Steve Todisco said the attorneys should to present the committee a set of plans.

“We don’t know where the building is going in terms of what its next use is going to be or if it is going to be sold,” said Todisco. “We need to have a comprehensive set of plans of any proposed historical additions, changes or alterations that we could respond to. I am having a problem responding to any of this because I don’t know what you are doing.”

Connolly said the homeowners are concerned about the “integrity” of Smith Farm’s side porches as well as lead paint and windows, which were discussed during last December’s site visit.

“There is nothing else,” said Connolly.

Historical Commission member Roy Sorli noted that the restrictive covenant placed on Centre Farm pertains to the home’s “external envelop.”

“If there is anything that goes on with Centre Farm, the owners have to come to the commission,” said Sorli. “We will then tell them if we like something or not, and then they proceed. We are the gatekeepers so to speak. Our rule is a statewide rule.”

McGrail said Gattineri wants to keep Smith Farm “a single-family home.”

“Centre Farm was a total renovation,” said McGrail. “There were so many things going on there because they were relocating doors and windows. We had an architect involved with that project. You need to have a baseline of what you are preserving, and we don’t have that.”

McGrail noted that the Massachusetts Historical Commission will need to approve the restrictive covenant before it gets placed on the Smith Farm property.

Todisco said, “A comprehensive set of covenants would cover it in this case.”

“I think a photographic documentary, including the covenants, would suffice,” said Todisco. “I think that is all that would be required.”

In response to a question from Todisco, Connolly said the covenants would be recorded in the Registry of Deeds.

After the discussion, Mansfield proposed that McGrail work with Town Counsel Tom Mullen in order to craft the covenants.

McGrail expressed his support for Mansfield’s proposal.

“We have a good place to start,” said Mansfield.

Smith Farm was built in 1850 and is the former home of town father Joseph F. Smith (1881-1963) and his wife Della Rich Smith (1899-1990). Joe’s property on Lowell Street was part of a grant of 640 acres given to the Smith family by King Charles I of England in 1640, which included Pocahontas Spring.

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