Farrell defends his actions regarding Sanford Bristol house

To the Editor:

I have been an active participant in the Milford Historical Society and have served on a number of city’s boards and committees for years. I have been involved with the United Way, Milford Downtown Business Association, the Republican Town Committee, the City’s Pension Board and many others.

This background and our mutual love of history, and in particular the history of Milford, led us to pursue purchasing the property at 111 North Street.

We made a fundamental mistake in buying the single family property because we fell in love with it. We bought the home with the intent to restore it. After extensive review by architects, restoration contractors and engineers, the universal conclusions by our paid experts told us the house was unsalvageable and unsafe.

The structural engineers informed us that 90% of the house would have to be removed and replaced with new material. Previous owners and tenants had stripped out plumbing, floor boards, wiring and anything of value. What remains is a deteriorating shell with lead paint and asbestos insulation. The problems date back over decades, we were told.

There is a saying that any problem can be fixed if you have enough money. The estimates we received were in excess of $500,000 to fix the house. If we had followed that course we would have in essence rebuilt the entire structure (not restored it) and replaced it with a replica. In the end we would have had a home that would be worth a lot less than the money we would have had to put into it. Our love affair with this property was over.

In hopes that someone else would have the interest and perhaps expertise in building that we do not have led us to put the home up for sale. We listed the property with Caldwell Banker for five months. After hundreds of showings and hits on the numerous websites nobody was willing to make an offer. Knowing that the house could not be salvaged and that nobody wanted to buy it, the only recourse was to go to the Historic Commission and ask permission to demolish the house and replace it with a new home designed to be in keeping with the historic look of the area.

The commission went to the site and hired their own engineer to review. They agreed on a 6 to 2 vote to approve our request. We next went to the town and submitted all necessary documents and were granted the demolition permit subject to the 90 day waiting period.

There were two court hearings on the matter. During the second court hearing the preservationists accepted our proposal to try to find a buyer for the house for $200,000, pay our legal fees and agree to our stipulation that the new buyer had to re-store the house to its original single family condition.

For five months prior to that agreement we had been subject to slanderous remarks and false and misleading information that flooded the papers. I find it interesting that everybody who was slandering us never went to the public meetings, never asked to review the reports, and have no experience in building or engineering. It is also interesting that never during this time did anybody contact us to see if we could resolve this. This house had been decaying for 20 years and nobody said anything. When the last owner removed anything of value no one objected.

Our critics, I guess, felt seeing their name in the news was more important than trying to solve the problem. It is interesting that a group of unelected and non-appointed people can delay you from doing something to your own property.

They can do this even if you followed all the rules. We had been trying to sell this for months. Did they call us? No. We believe they felt by using intimidation through the press they could change our minds. They were wrong. We are thrilled they found someone to buy the house on our terms. We are pleased they agreed to our stipulation the new buyer had to restore the house when they brought it. We are pleased that they had to pay our legal fees. We are satisfied with the outcome of selling the home for $200,000. We are also pleased the house will be saved.

I am shocked and disappointed that we continue to be vilified in this situation. We sold the property with a requirement in the sales agreement that the new buyer restore the home to the original single family dwelling it was since 1795. Our hope is that this is done and the house is saved.

William and Gwendolyn Farrell

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  • Bill Joyner

    So let me get this straight…you sold this house with a stipulation attached that you yourself earlier concluded was not achievable? Or at least, not achievable at any reasonable level of cost that would ensure the next owner could eventually have a marketable property? While earning yourself a $50K gain & legal fees in the process? Glad to hear your so thrilled and satisfied.

  • LegalEagle1

    I am astonished that an astute investment professional, such as
    yourself, Mr. Farrell, would purchase any home without at least an
    engineer’s report – now that’s love! I, too, am in love with the
    Sanford-Bristol home. I realize now why I never received a response to
    my requests for a showing – you must have been so busy with the
    “hundreds” of showings while the house was “on the market”. Frustrated,
    I walked the property, while it was for sale, hoping to catch a showing
    in progress. It is a shame the handsome country-style wood kitchen
    cabinets were torn out by the time the house was sold – those dastardly
    vandals!

    Thank God the structure did not collapse around us the day Leslie Mills took possession of the home, which, according to your paid “architects, restoration contractors and engineers” could have happened. There must have been 25-30 of us all throughout the house that day with no incident. Truly a miracle! Did you know the house was enlarged to a 2-family dwelling in the mid-1800′s? There are even 2 cooking fireplaces – very unique!

    Despite all the “unpleasantness” you endured while trying to raze this historic
    treasure and replace it with a new “old home”, you at least scored an extra $50,000 for your troubles. I understand this resulted in severe financial hardship for Milford Preservation Trust. Apparently, historic preservation does have a price in Milford.

    I am eternally grateful for the courage and vision of the Milford Preservation Trust and the CT Trust for Historic Preservation, to save the Sanford-Bristol house. Congratulations to the MPT, on their Historic Preservation Award, for saving the Sanford-Bristol house.

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