2014-04-25 / Front Page

Concerns raised over beach home’s design

By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — The recent erection of an modernistic home on Middle Beach has caused a stir among some residents.

Leanne Travers addressed members of the Planning Board last Monday, urging them to consider the implementation of residential design standards so as to protect the town’s historical image and economic base.

“I’ve been rather busy this winter and didn’t get to ride around the beach until about a month or so ago, and as I came around the Narragansett and was looking down the length of the Middle Beach, I was pretty shocked at what I saw,” Travers said of the new house that is owned by Jay and Diana Glenn of McAllen, Texas.

“But as much as I personally don’t care for the design of the new houses being built, my greater concern is if this is going to start being some new architecture in our beach, I think we need to address some issues immediately.”

“I see it more in an economics context: our beaches and our neighborhoods are our major economic drivers in this town. And it’s incumbent upon the community to protect our future. We are a tourist and a seasonal community. The beach properties are a major property tax resource,” Travers said.

Summer homeowners “return to Kennebunk each year because this town maintains the pristine beauty of our beaches. That natural beauty is enhanced by many of the lovely homes right on the main road and in nearby neighborhoods.”

If another home like this is going to be built, I think we’re going down a slippery slope and I think it’ll change the beach’s identity and our own town’s identity. Can we allow that to happen, or should we allow that to happen?

“I think we need to start a discussion (about building regulations) ... I think we need to talk about do we want to put limitations on future building around the beach?”

Historically, said planning board member David Smith, “In terms of do we have anything that would prevent this type of architecture ... in the past? I don’t know if anyone’s ever tried to launch that.”

“I did bring forth from the town of Weston, Mass., a teardown provision that would protect historical buildings that are not necessarily in a historic district. I don’t know that Kennebunk’s really ready for that,” Smith said.

If the town is going to implement residential design standards, the broader the better, Smith said.

“I think if we put in or propose some architectural standards for the beach, I think we would be better served to make them relatively broad brushed and not prescriptive the way Nantucket is ... I don’t want to see that.”

Said planning board member Robert Metcalf, “In terms of putting design standards together, I wish it could be more a case of someone coming in and understanding what the culture of the community is ... In terms of putting design standards together, moderate ones.”

It comes down to, “This town has a history, a rich history,” Metcalf said. “I’d say the majority of what has been done in the community has been tastefully done ... unfortunately unless you have something in black and white that says this is what you shall do and this is what you shall not do, you’re then taking away people’s land rights.

“You own a piece of property and there are standards there that say you should be able to do with your property what you want to.”

To impose design standards, Metcalf said, “That also imposes a character that, you know, are we being an opendoor, open-minded community? I guess I’d like to err on the side that we don’t get too many of these.

“It opens up a big can of worms in terms of whatever direction you take: you’re going to burn the feet of a lot of people who are not going to be happy with being told what they can’t do.”

“I think, personally, that we as a town are a bit naïve,” Travers said. “That we thought nobody would come into this town and build a home that is so utterly out of keeping with the area.”

Chris MacClinchy, chairman, stated that the topic is “worth exploring.”

The board agreed to continue discussing the issue and to look into how other nearby towns have dealt with the issue.

Said Smith, “Am I concerned about this? I am only because if it’s proliferated it’s going to have a very deleterious effect. I think one is one too many. It really looks like it belongs in Malibu, California, instead of the historic New England seacoast community.”

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