LACONIA — Cafua Management Company, LLC, the Dunkin' Donuts franchise holder that owns the historic Hathaway House at 1106 Union Avenue, yesterday formally applied for a demolition permit to raze the historic Victorian mansion.
"It doesn't surprise me," said Pam Clark who chairs the Heritage Commission, which has led an effort to preserve the building. Greg Nolan, director of development at Cafua, began distributing applications to the appropriate city departments in September. The process requires applications, which can be downloaded from the city website, to be signed by officials of the Department of Public Works, Water Department, Fire Department and Planning Department as well as the gas and electric utilities servicing the property then submitted to the Code Enforcement officer.
Since the Hathaway House is more than 700-square-feet in area and 75 or more years old, as well as visible from a public right-of-way, the application, once complete, must also be presented to the Heritage Commission for review. Clark said yesterday that the commission will consider the application at its next regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday, December 11. She expected the commission would authorize her to decline to endorse the application for a demolition permit and instead schedule a public hearing in an effort to preserve the building.
Once the commission schedules a public hearing, the owner is required by ordinance to post a sign to that effect, along with the date, time and place of the hearing, on the building in plain sight. Should the public hearing close without agreement on an alternative to demolition, the Heritage Commission shall meet with the owner within 10 days to seek agreement on an alternative. Without an agreement to preserve the building, the owner may proceed with demolition while the Heritage Commission, with the consent of the owner, shall photograph and document the building as well as encourage the owner to salvage any of its important architectural features.
Concern for the future of the Hathaway House was first aroused in 2008 when Cafua, which acquired the property in 2000, proposed demolishing the house and constructing a Dunkin' Donuts store and strip mall on the site. However, after a series of meetings with city officials and concerned citizens, Cafua agreed to preserve the Hathaway House and build the Dunkin' Donuts outlet on the remaining 0.75-acre parcel.
When the project was approved, Nolan assured the Planning Board that the Hathaway House would be repainted as well as fitted with a fire alarm and fire suppression system. He said the company had no plans for the building other than to preserve it. Two years later the building, which had not been painted or improved, was offered for sale or lease. At the time Nolan assured the Planning Department "there will be a condition that the house cannot be scrapped." He repeated that he intended to paint the building, but conceded that the work had yet to be scheduled.
While the building went without paint, improvement or repair, its champions charged Cafua with "demolition by neglect." Repeated requests for an explanation of the company's plans for the property went unanswered.
In October, concern mounted when a work crew arrived to remove asbestos from the building and board up its windows, prompting members of the Heritage Commission to begin picketing the property and boycotting Dunkin' Donuts in protest. At the same time, the picketeers have advertised in local newspapers explaining their action and encouraging the public to join the boycott by listing other coffee shops in the city.