A once-graceful, but deteriorating Gulf Street home is drawing the attention of preservationists and city officials determined to save it from "demolition by neglect.''
The 1890 neo-Colonial house at 417 Gulf St., owned by Nicholas Riggione, has missing windows that allow birds, rain and wind to damage the interior, officials said. "It is the most efficient way to allow a property to deteriorate," City Historian Richard Platt said.
Riggione met Platt at the property recently and reportedly indicated that he has plans to repair it, but the city historian said the owner offered no specifics or timetable. Riggione did not return calls for comment Monday.
The 1.6-acre property that includes the nearly 4,000-square-foot house has an assessed value of $922,000, 70 percent of its market value. It is near Gulf Beach and would fall within the boundaries of a proposed Gulf Street Historic District.
Linda Stock, the city's zoning code enforcement officer, notified Riggione by letter in March of several violations on the property, and set a deadline for them to be corrected. But nothing appears to have been done, officials said.
Platt and other preservationists are still smarting over the loss in 2007 of the Merwin-Cadley House on Gulf Pond, and what they feel was a circumventing of regulations meant to protect historic structures. A developer claimed that the house, one of the oldest in Milford, was being "dismantled," not demolished, but few of the original elements were ultimately reused.
"This is happening again right before our eyes, and it is clearly an economic development issue,'' said Genevieve Salvatore, chairwoman of the city Economic Development Commission. "People are coming to Milford for its quaint New England charm, and we're letting it go by the board."
Salvatore, the Democratic candidate for mayor, and an aide surveyed the property from an adjoining yard and took photos Thursday.
The issue is within the purview of her commission because of its impact on tourism and through its Neigborhood Preservation initiative, Salvatore said.
Lisa DiLullo, aide to Mayor James L. Richetelli Jr., said the mayor ordered a structural inspection of the house and no safety issues were found. The debris visible through the open windows is from interior renovations that are being made after Riggione received the required permits, DiLullo said.
Platt said that he will submit to the Board of Aldermen next month a proposed ordinance that would increase protection for historic homes and commercial buildings. Among other things the measure would make a legal distinction between dismantling and demolition.
Shorten to 50 years the age of a building eligible for protection and require notice to all adjacent property owners when a demolition permit is issued for an historic structure. Platt's legislation would also create a Historic Review Board to consider such permits.
The Gulf Street house is listed on the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation's list of "threatened'' properties.
CLICK HERE FOR ORIGINAL FRANK JULIANO STORY