Town OK's Gage Street home demolition

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BENNINGTON — The town's Development Review Board this month approved the demolition of a currently vacant Gage Street home to accommodate a new, 19-space parking lot for employees of The Pharmacy.

The DRB unanimously approved the plan at its Jan. 7 meeting, according to minutes.

The parking lot's "design meets all side, back and front setbacks" and "would also contain the proper landscaping and additional fencing," according to DRB meeting minutes. The lot will be paved and "angled towards Gage Street" for water runoff.

The purchase of the property by 110 Gage, LLC — which lists Philip J. O'Neill, The Pharmacy's president, as a principal in state records — for $134,000 was recorded with the town in May of last year. O'Neill also owns the site of The Pharmacy — located at the intersection of Gage and North streets — as well as two Gage Street parcels that are adjacent to 110 Gage St., town records indicate.

The Gage Street home was occupied "up until the time we purchased it," Keith O'Neill, The Pharmacy's controller, told the town's Historic Review Commission at its meeting on December 11.

The property owner has obtained a demolition permit, Larry McLeod, the town's building inspector, told the Banner on Thursday. McLeod said he didn't know when the project will commence.

Keith O'Neill did not return a phone call on Thursday seeking information on the project's timeline.

At the December meeting, O'Neill said the company currently rents parking spaces for its employees in the adjacent plaza that houses Trustco Bank and The Goodwill Store.

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"We feel, from a safety and just from a convenience standpoint," the new lot, where the company would control the lighting, would better serve employees, about 35 of whom work at that location, O'Neill said. The company employs a total of 50 people.

Geoff Metcalfe, of Keefe and Wesner Architects, said at the commission meeting last month that the building at 110 Gage St. had lost its historic value through "a century of ill-fated renovations." The building currently has "dilapidated features," vinyl siding and porches that "are sort of falling in," he said.

The interior of the home, he added, "is absolutely disheveled."

Asked about by a commissioner about the building's structural condition, Metcalfe said "there is a fair amount of deflection in joists" but that he had "not done a thorough inspection of it."

The commission unanimously recommended that the DRB approve the demolition. The five-member advisory body reviewed the project because the building appears on the Vermont Historic Sites and Structures Survey, Assistant Town Manager Dan Monks said at the December meeting.

"I hate to see it go, even though it's in bad shape," one commissioner, Anne Bugbee, said before the vote.

A nomination form available online that dates to the 1987 describes the home, built around 1850, as a "1 1/2-story, 3x3-bay, gable-front, vernacular house with Greek Revival elements." It was referred to "as 'Mrs. Benson's'" on a 1869 map, the form states.

The decades-old form includes a "statement of significance" for Gage Street, recorded by David C. Tansey, that observes the corridor "has not been immune to change in recent decades" and that its "westernmost block off North Street" — where 110 Gage St. is located — "has seen an influx of small businesses and the loss of its residential character."

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