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Old Town

<b>PUTTING DOWN THE RITZ?</b> - Score one for the Old and Historic District, ‘Towners. City planners have given a ‘thumbs down’ to the owner of an important property at 210 King Street, who wanted to demolish a portion of the building — deemed a "no no" by the Board of Architectural Review and a host of heavy preservationist hitters.

Faithful readers will recall that we reported a few years ago that the owner of 210 King, Michael Zarlenga, began a lengthy and somewhat bitter battle with planners to utilize zoning laws and whatever to get what he wanted. He didn’t get it, at least at this writing. The owner sought to utilize a provision of the city code to proceed with demolition by right, if no one purchased the building at his asking price.

In this case the owner’s asking price was $2.4 million — more than a little high according to appraisers hired by the city to determine the property’s fair value. The owner had until July 25, 2009 to sell the property at his price. Didn’t happen. Appraisers had concluded earlier that that the asking price was not reasonably related to the property’s fair price.

City planners told the owner in writing the other day that he hadn’t met the conditions of the law and could not proceed with the demolition that was previously denied by the BAR and City Council. If Zarlenga wants to proceed, the city says, he needs to start all over again.

Loyal readers might wonder why I’m going into so much detail over what might appear to be just another zoning and planning issue. Obviously, there’s more to the story, as the late Paul Harvey used to say.

As the demolition appeal played out over the last year or so, the owner was obviously incensed with the city and, I’d guess, those faceless (they’re always faceless) bureaucrats who would like to run his life. So he decided to stick it to the city. And that was what mobilized Old Town traditionalists to fight him.

The owner rented the front of his building at 210 King to a retail company that, shall we say, opened a shop for adult use and enjoyment only. We had a term in the Army for what these shops entailed. I won’t get into that right now, but suffice to say, it wasn’t Louis Vuitton.

The feeling among lovers of our old port city was that the owner of 210 King had dissed us big time. None I spoke to welcomed the adult shop, Le Tache. Nor were they pleased that Le Tache occupied a perch on our main drag that was one of the first shops seen by King St. strollers.

The story of 210 and what will happen in coming weeks and months may be far from over. Let’s hope that reasonable folks might be willing to — well, you know what I mean.

<b>— Bob Feldkamp</b>