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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Regarding 161/181 Gilchrist

April 20, 2023
By Boca Beacon Reader

To the Editor: 

Regarding 161/181 Gilchrist Avenue:

 As I said at the meeting, “When Mrs. Crowninshield’s hand-carved coral bench met its’ demise by a sledgehammer and was thrown in a dumpster, I feared this day would come,” the day when someone can come into the historic district with total disregard for the history, and for that matter, disregard for his neighbors and easements that were in place long before his arrival.  How a demo permit was granted before the Historic Preservation Board approved the plans is another issue.  What it does do is shine a light on just how vulnerable our historic little village is without specific protections in place. What can we do to protect things like Mrs. Crowninshield’s whispering bench and the iconic banyan trees that Thomas Edison brought to our area?

 What is extremely disturbing is what you don’t see in the application. “Future Development.” Just be HONEST in your presentation, show a SCALED site plan of the ENTIRE project with the TOTAL square footage and other required drawings. But they haven’t and they won’t, because the total square footage will not be three times larger, but potentially five to six times larger than the other homes in the neighborhood. Thus, making it more in scale to the new construction on the 40’s and Shore Lane than Gilchrist Avenue.  

 If the Historic Preservation Board approves the initial application on the two waterfront lots known as 161 Gilchrist, it will set a precedent, which in turn will be used against them when the “Future Development” application is made. They will be forced to accept a similar square footage on the two Gilchrist lots, which means drastically reducing or completely removing the banyan tree and the majestic canopy, severely changing the streetscape of Gilchrist Avenue FOREVER. Can you imagine someone on Banyan Street deciding they don’t want the maintenance of the leaves and berries and cut their trees down? As it stands, it could happen. Not to mention, it may open the floodgate for overdevelopment of all the contributing and noncontributing homes in the historic district.  

I get that the property is essentially two buildable lots and don’t disagree that two homes could be built. But it’s the scale and manner in which it is presented that is quite deceitful and certainly not neighborly. You can still have a Texas-sized home, honor the history and easement of the whispering bench, preserve the banyan and still stay within the setbacks. Just be a good neighbor and a good steward to the historic property you are so fortunate to own.

Sue Sligar

Boca Grande