ST. ALBANS CITY — A group challenging the St. Albans City Development Review Board permit that allows the demolition of the former Owl Club, also known as the Smith homestead, have asked the court to issue a stay barring the owners from demolishing the building.
Planning commissioner Peter Ford and city residents Mark and Sue Prent have challenged the permit in Vermont Environmental Court, arguing that the building owners, the Connor Group, did not fulfill the requirements of city regulations regarding the demolition of historic buildings.
The regulations require that anyone seeking to demolish a historic building provide an estimate of the cost of rehabilitation, something the Connors refused to do.
The brick portion of the former Owl Club, located at the corner of Congress Street and Maiden Lane, was built in 1820 by John Smith, the father of Vermont Civil War era Governor J. Gregory Smith. The elder Smith served in the U.S. Congress and was one of those responsible for bringing the railroad to St. Albans.
Ford and the Prents originally represented themselves, but Burlington attorney Paul Gillies , a former Vermont secretary of state, has taken the case pro bono.
Gillies filed the motion for a stay of demolition on Aug.19. The Connor Group has until Friday to respond.
In order to be granted a stay, Ford and the Prents must show that they are likely to win the case. Gillies filing is brief, stating that city regulations require demolition be a last resort and that the Connor Group has avoided addressing the central question as to why the Smith house must be demolished.
Gillies also states the loss of the Smith house would be irreparable and that delaying its demolition would not bring significant harm to the Connor Group.
The Connor Group is proposing to remove the original building and additions made later in order to construct an approximately 10,000-square-foot office building. The Connors stated during permit hearings that they had no tenants lined up for the building, but did ask for permission to use the building as a medical clinic.
In addition to 36 parking spaces at the rear of the building, the Connors also asked the city for permission to create 10 diagonal parking spaces in the city’s right-of-way on Maiden Lane. The city council has not decided the parking issues.
However, the city council did deny the Connors request for an emergency demolition order in June, following alleged vandalism at the building.