(EDITOR'S NOTE FOR CLARIFICATION: According to County Judge Preston Scroggin, the county bought the duplex for $44,000, not $70,000 as listed in JP Charles Prince's letter to the Historic District Commission. * That paragraph will be updated with the corrected information.)
A duplex that was included in the Asa P. Robinson Historic District because of its unique construction has deteriorated since the National Register conducted its survey in 1997.
So much so that Faulkner County, the new owner of the structure at 1512-1514 Robinson Ave., has asked that it be demolished to make way for a 15-space parking lot to serve the growing needs of the county’s business.
The house’s molded concrete blocks were cited in the survey as significant.
The Conway Historic District Commission agreed Monday night to allow demolition, but only after a lengthy discussion about the role of the commission and the district’s guidelines that "highly discourage" the demolition of structures within the district.
"I urge us to be very careful. If we continue to destroy structures in the historic district, we won’t have a historic district," said commissioner Barbara Stroope.
Commissioners agreed, but considered information from Justice of the Peace Charles Prince that said the Quorum Court had determined that the house is not sound, there are no community or family histories associated with the structure and to renovate or restore "would be overly burdensome and contrary to the financial and structural ideals of the Court."
A separate letter from the Finance and Administration committee of the Quorum Court included the statement: "...any funds dedicated to the renovation of this property would be in vain and result in a waste of taxpayer funds."
* (This paragraph edited for correction.) The County purchased the property for $44,000 and estimated that remodeling of the 1,400 square-foot duplex would cost about $110 per square foot or $155,760, giving a total investment of about $200,000.
Bryan Patrick, the city’s director of planning and development, said those costs would be even higher because the structure is in a commercial zone and commercial grade wiring and plumbing would be required.
An estimate for another option, to move the structure to another location, was $30,000. That cost plus the purchase of new land and the cost of rebuilding exterior walls would make that move not financially feasible, Prince said.
An estimate for demolition was $5,000.
The motion for demolition that was approved unanimously, included several stipulations.
• "That the County use the City of Conway ordinances and Historic District Commission and Old Conway guidelines regarding parking lots and go before the HDC for approval;
• "That the Chairman of the HDC send a letter to the Quorum Court that in the future, before the county decides to use taxpayer dollars for other properties within the district that they must consult with the city to determine what criteria for use, renovation and demolition exist;
• "That blocks from the existing structure be used in the landscaping of the new parking lot; and
• "Approval is contingent on the submission and approval of a site plan before demolition."
In other business, the commission approved a change that would allow but discourage the use of Exterior Insulated Finishing Systems in the historic district and, if approved, EIFS could only be applied in upper story areas or other areas not susceptible to impact damage.
(Staff writer Becky Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 505-1234.)