HALLOWELL — The Board of Appeals reversed a decision by the Planning Board to block a local developer from razing a waterfront building during its meeting Tuesday night.

The building, located at 226 Water St., is owned by Steve Hammond, who was represented at the meeting by his attorney, Walter McKee. McKee said the Planning Board “got it wrong” last month when it voted 4-2 against the demolition of the building; the Board of Appeals vote was 3-2.

Asked as he left City Hall whether he was happy with the decision, McKee said, “For sure, and we are looking forward to moving along with this project. … People will be very excited by what (Steve) has planned.”

McKee said the appeal was brought because the Planning Board based its decision to deny the demolition permit on less than substantial evidence. He said “it is (Steve’s) property, and in America, in which Hallowell is still contained, you are allowed to do with your own property what you want to so long as you follow the law.”

The ordinance states the Planning Board cannot approve demolition unless “the structure is of limited architectural or historic value as part of the visual character of the street on which it is located” or “it presents an immediate hazard and a possibility of harm to the neighborhood.”

McKee said the Planning Board did not apply the facts to the law, which “was what the appeals board agreed with.”

For months, McKee said the building is not structurally sound and has obvious deterioration; but that wasn’t the crux of his argument, nor were those facts considered by the Planning Board in making their decision.

During the meeting, McKee sought to show that the Planning Board failed in applying the appropriate standard by poking holes in the arguments put forth by Row House, the group that provided the major opposition to Hammond’s plan.

Row House Inc., a nonprofit organization that seeks to preserve historic Hallowell, had argued since first learning of Hammond’s plan in January that the building did not qualify for demolition under the city’s ordinance because of its historic significance. The board did not allow Row House to be considered “a party” in the matter because it could not prove it would suffer a particularized harm if Hammond demolished the building.

Carolyn Manson, the nonprofit’s president, who attended the meeting with several supporters, said she was disappointed in the decision but thanked those that supported her organization’s efforts to keep Hammond from razing the building.

McKee stressed the fact that two publications describing historic Hallowell that showed hundreds of homes did not mention 226 Water St. among the historically significant structures in the city. McKee also said Row House’s paid consultant’s report “added no more than gloss to previously rejected evidence.”

“If you take the position the Planning Board took, there is not a single property the Hallowell historic district that could be removed,” McKee said. “The standards the Planning Board used in its determination were not appropriate.”

The building, the former site of Hallowell Mayor Mark Walker’s law office, is boarded up after sustaining water damage in January. McKee has stated the building would remain in its current state because it makes no sense to spend money on renovations.

The Board of Appeals, which one city official said “hasn’t met in years,” appeared disjointed and unsure about several parts of the proceeding, and city attorney Erik Stumpfel guided the group through many of the unchartered waters. Much of the meeting was spent going over procedures and processes. McKee said the board “ultimately figured it out.”

According to the state’s Board of Appeals statute, the board can affirm, modify, or set aside a decision, order, rule or failure to act by the Code Enforcement Officer or the Planning Board. In this case, the board’s role was to decide whether or not the Planning Board’s decision was made in error of the law.

Several members of the public that opposed Hammond’s plan were in attendance, including Row House President Carolyn Manson. Former Mayor Bob Stubbs and his wife, Sandy, who support the plan, also attended.

McKee filed the appeal March 17, the day after the Planning Board voted against the demolition plan. He said Hammond hopes to have demolition completed by the end of the summer.

“It’s was a challenge for everybody, because these are complex issues,” McKee said. “It was a long road.”

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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