2016-10-13 / Columnists

Babylon News & Muse

•After a good soaking over the weekend, which we needed quite a bit, we’re in for a week of lovely weather.

•Frank and Chase Ognibene, owners of record of the historic David Smith House, have filed an application with the Babylon Village Zoning Board appealing the Village’s building department denial for a permit to build a one-family dwelling at 527 Deer Park Avenue and to demolish an existing house and replace it with a replica. The home the owners want to demolish is the historical Davis Smith Home.

Many people have noticed the foundation in front of the David Smith House at 527 Deer Park Avenue. Vincent DiCanio, who had it put in, said at the time it would accommodate the old house, if and when it was moved. The foundation would also accommodate a replica, as well.

DiCanio and the Ognibene family have suggested that they tear down David Smith’s house, built in 1790, and replace it with a replica. To suggest this to all the people who want the home of the Revolutionary War soldier preserved is an insult. Would you accept a baseball they had scrawled “Babe Ruth” on, in place of the real thing? This house is part of Babylon’s heritage.

In December 2012, nearly four years ago, the people behind Indian Crossings applied to have the first house they were to build made higher than any of the surrounding homes. The Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) granted them the variance to make the house being built higher, and later added a condition that they move and maintain the Smith House.

Instead, the Babylon Village Heritage Conservancy proposed that the house be sold, at a tidy profit for the builders, to someone who would restore it and live in it. The Conservancy, from the start, volunteered to help find a buyer for the house.

It was the understanding of many in the Conservancy that Indian Crossings was not to be issued a permanent C of O (Certificate of Occupancy) on the first house they built until they complied with the ZBA’s directive to move and maintain the Smith house. Despite that, a C of O was issued and was followed by a corrected C of O that added language stating, “On the condition of compliance with the decision of the Zoning Board dated Dec. 19, 2013.” That referred to the requirement that the Smith Home be both moved and preserved. Since they have neither moved nor maintained the old house, they are still not in compliance. Now the builders have applied to demolish the Smith house.

What about the Conservancy’s offer to find a buyer for the house? Actually, we found not one but two different buyers. But Indian Crossings refused to negotiate with the proposed buyers. The second buyer offered to take care of all the work needed to move the house, including installing utility hook-ups, curb cuts, at their expense.

The Ognibenes refused to even make a counter offer. Instead they made the silly proposal that they knock down the David Smith house and replace it with a replica!

Part of Babylon’s charm is the number of old homes and neighborhoods here.

In recent years developers have torn down some of the older homes, replacing them with replicas of Victorian houses. These old houses and neighborhoods are Babylon’s heritage, and as such need to be preserved.

For four years the developers have ignored the Zoning Board’s ruling. They have done all they could to make the house look like it is a wreck. They have piled dirt up to the windows, left debris all around the site and have done nothing to maintain the building. They used the variance to build the first house higher and then ignored their part of the agreement.

Please come to the next Zoning Board of Appeals hearing, at Village Hall, Oct. 19. The application by Frank and Chase Ognibene will be heard at that meeting (at 7:30 p.m.). Come and make it clear to these developers that Babylon does not want a “replica.” We want the real thing, so help us save the David Smith house.

•Happy birthday to Jerri Romeo and Georgia Westcott! Happy anniversary to Mary and Jason Cascone!

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