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‘This old house’ to get makeover

(2/15) An early, "stone house" located on Water Street in Fairfield Borough is facing a makeover, once the property owner and borough can sort out borough code issues associated with the property.

Potential plans for the old house, which is at least 19th Century and possible older, was presented to the Fairfield Borough Planning Commission at their February 12 meeting by architect Allen Beckett, representing the property owners.

The house and property in question, owned by Gerard and Kathleen Michaels, is at 10 Water Street. The old home has been unoccupied for some time, but there is also a modular structure on the same lot which serves as an occupied residence.

The old, unoccupied house found itself on the borough’s radar when it began to show signs of disrepair, according to Land & Sea Services, LLC., the firm that manages the borough’s code enforcement.

Beckett told the planning commission that owner Michaels wants to save the home, but "doesn’t really have a concept," and was seeking input from the commission members as to the course they would like to see pursued when it comes to renovating the building.

"I think it could be a really attractive building if done right," Beckett said. "My vision is to make it look like it did back in the day."

But the path to restoration may not be so smooth, beginning with addressing the fact that a second residence has been sited on the property, an issue in and of itself. As a result of this and other issues, Robert Thaeler, planner with county Office of Planning and development, said, "There is a substantial list of variances that would have to be granted" to allow the project to proceed.

The commission took no formal action on the issue, and the proponents of the project will continue to work towards addressing regulatory concerns in order to complete the renovation.

Robert Dayhoff,, Jr. building and construction code official with Land & Sea Services, said the state of disrepair of the old stone house constituted "demolition of a property by neglect" under the law, which entails essentially allowing a building to fall apart through lack of maintenance.

The roof had developed a hole in it, window glass was missing and not boarded over, and vegetation was permitted to reach a point where it could endanger the integrity of the foundation, he said. As a result, the property owners were cited after being notified of the borough’s concerns.

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