Historic Preservation Commission OKs removal of St. Luke Episcopal Church trees, delays demolition

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 14, 2018

By Liz Moomey

SALISBURY — The Historic Preservation Commission decided to approve the removal of a storm-damaged Willow Oak tree at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church at Thursday’s meeting.

Dick Martin and Robert Black, the applicants with the church, said the tree was damaged during Hurricane Matthew. They received two reports of the tree’s state through an arborist, who initially said it could be preserved but after further assessment said it should be removed.

The assessment concluded: “You may want to consider the inevitable possibility of removing this tree to reduce the risk of failure and injury to persons or damage to property altogether.”

“We had signed a contract to do all the preservation work and then when we got that second report,” Black said. “I actually felt very lucky it hadn’t done any actual damage. The last limb that fell after the hurricane within a foot and even more thankful it hasn’t fell on a person or car yet. When we got that second report, it felt like we don’t have a choice.”

Steve Cobb asked what evidence the arborist came back with to support the removal. Black said they found fungus and weak limbs that wouldn’t allow for them to preserve it.

Several members said they would hate to see the tree removed but understand it’s a safety liability.

The commission also approved a delay of the demolition of 1408 South Fulton Street, which code enforcement concluded it was in disrepair. The demolition was approved at the November city council meeting, but the commission could approve a 90-day delay to give an opportunity to improve the home since it’s historic.

Andrew Pitner, who lives in Fulton Heights, said he wants the commission to approve the delay to allow the Historic Salisbury Foundation time to begin improving it.

“It’s significant to our neighborhood because it’s the last residential structure before the commercial properties,” Pitner said.

Cobb, who recused himself from the commission, spoke on behalf of the foundation and the work they have already begun to do to bring the home back. He said the house may date back to the late 1800s because of clues in the home. He said the foundation has already cleared vegetation and junk from the property.

“We’re doing this in efforts of concerns of the neighborhood and show that this house has the potential to not be an eyesore,” Cobb said.

He added the owners have drafted a letter of intent to donate the house to the Historic Salisbury Foundation.

Member Sue McHugh said she understands Pitner’s concerns about removing a historic home on the edge of Fulton Heights.

“I agree with this being a border wall,” McHugh said. “That’s exactly right — the border will shrink.”

Member CJ Peters said he is for the 90-day delay.

“It’s obvious to give it the 90 days,” Peters said. “The Historic Salisbury Foundation is already taking it on and paving the way to save another historic landmark.”

The delay was unanimously approved. Staff liaison said the foundation would have 90 days to make repairs that show code enforcement that the house is being repaired. The 90 days started when the delay was passed.