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Historic barn in Amherst demolished even after 11th hour appeal

JOSH KUCKENS
A barn located behind a rental property on Lincoln Ave in Amherst may soon be torn down despite claims that Robert Frost may have utilized the space as a studio.

JOSH KUCKENS A barn located behind a rental property on Lincoln Ave in Amherst may soon be torn down despite claims that Robert Frost may have utilized the space as a studio. Purchase photo reprints »

Despite a challenge by neighbors to the granting of a demolition permit to remove a century-old barn at 290 Lincoln Ave., the structure was torn down Wednesday.

The permit, issued Monday by Building Commissioner Robert Morra, was appealed to the town clerk’s office later that day by neighbors, including members of the Coalition of Amherst Neighborhoods.

But the appeal appears to have had little effect, as the barn, owned by You-Pan Tzeng of Longmeadow, was demolished. It was located in the yard of a rental house owned by Tzeng.

The structure is said to have had connections to poet Robert Frost.

Planning Director Jonathan Tucker said all appeals to zoning permit actions by town officials, such as the building commissioner, are heard by the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Tucker said senior planner Jeffrey Bagg, staff liaison to the ZBA, will work with its chairman to determine when a hearing on the appeal can be scheduled.

Town Manager John Musante said several steps have ensured the process for demolition was fair.

“The issue went through the specific regulatory process and judgment was rendered by the Historical Commission,” Musante said.

The commission’s unanimous decision, made in September, was that the barn is not an historically significant building, even though it is unnecessary to take it down.

The home and barn were built in the early 1900s by Warren Brown, an Amherst businessman who also wrote a book titled “Attractive Amherst.” Brown was a friend to Frost, but there was no indication the barn was used as an artist’s studio until claims were made by a real estate agent selling the property in the last year.

Tzeng told the commission that he believed the 28-by-48-foot, 1½-story barn posed a liability for his tenants.

Patricia Stacey of 280 Lincoln Ave., who lives next door, said in an email that she believes because the barn came down before the appeal was resolved, the Zoning Board of Appeals could require Tzeng to reconstruct the barn or face fines.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Taub of 259 Lincoln Ave. said she and other neighbors are saddened by the removal of the barn.

“In addition to losing an extremely long-standing and charming outbuilding, Mr. Tzeng’s plan for what will replace the barn will absolutely degrade, rather than enhance, the community,” Taub said. Tzeng, who could not be reached for comment, has not publicly discussed plans for the property.

Even at times when the Historical Commission has used the demolition delay bylaw — which puts a one-year hold on demolition — property owners have simply waited the period and then removed the buildings or structures.

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