Hampton Selectmen Want Beach Fire Station Off Historic Registry

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By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Tuesday, January 17, 2012

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

HAMPTON -- Selectmen are asking precinct commissioners to remove the nearly century-old beach fire station on Ashworth Avenue from the New Hampshire State Register of Historic Places.

The request made last week comes as both groups work on a new agreement regarding the transfer of the precinct parking lot to the town for the purpose of constructing a new fire sub-station at Hampton Beach.

The commission did not object to the request as it wants to get the new deal finalized as soon as possible. A previous agreement regarding the land swap, which called for the town to demolish the existing precinct owned fire station to make up for lost parking, expired after voters shot down a $7.5 million two-fire station proposal in 2011.

The new agreement, which is essentially the same as last year with a few minor changes, is needed as selectmen are putting forth a scaled-down $4.6 million two-fire station plan to voters at the March 13 election.

Hampton Beach Precinct Commissioner Chuck Rage said he has no problem removing the old station from the registry because the majority of precinct voters want the building demolished to make up for loss parking.

The chairman said the commission never requested the 1923 building be put on the registry and that it was done in 2010 by former precinct commissioner June White.

"But I wouldn't want to do anything without a vote from the precinct,'" Rage said.

Precinct attorney Sharon Sommers agreed the commission should consider putting forth a warrant article at the precinct's annual Town Meeting.

"We certainly do not want any challenges or issues raised after the fact," Sommers said.

White said she filed application to designate the beach fire station as a historic place because she and others do not want to see the old building torn down.

The designation, she said at the time, would give the precinct options to apply for grants to restore the building to its former glory.

Mary Kate Ryan, of the state's Division of Historical Resources, said it approved the designation because it's still an active fire station and it's the only building associated with the Hampton Beach Precinct, which formed in 1907 to provide municipal services to the beach-end community in Hampton.

Ryan said the designation does not prevent the precinct or the town from tearing down the building if it desires.

"It will just be taken off the list," Ryan said.

Rage said the remainder of the agreement — which spells out what the town will give the precinct in exchange for the land — is virtually the same as the one precinct voters approved at last year's Town Meeting.

The town has agreed to demolish the current fire station and precinct garage on Ashworth Avenue and deed a 9,500-square-foot parcel of land to the precinct to replace the majority of lost parking spaces.

It also will foot the bill to repave the precinct's new parking lot as well as install new fencing around the property.

The town will also construct a precinct meeting room inside the new fire substation and aid the precinct in recouping the parking revenue losses resulting from construction.

One change proposed by selectmen that is different has to do with a clause that stated when the new building is no longer used by the Fire Department, the ownership of the land would revert back to the precinct.

While the original agreement called for the so-called reverter clause to last for 50 years, the new agreement is only for 20 years.

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