LAKE GEORGE — Town officials may strengthen protection for historic properties by requiring developers to present plans for redeveloping properties before doing any work.
Dan Barusch, director of planning and zoning, told the Town Board last week he was spurred to think about this issue because the former Peabody estate on Lakeshore Drive, also known as Wikiosco, is on the market for $7.9 million.
The 20,000-square-foot Tudor Revival-style mansion has eight bedrooms, a 10-bay, 20-car garage, two covered boathouses, 4,000-bottle wine room and a heated outdoor pool, according to the real estate listing.
The property was built in 1895 for Royal C. Peabody, the founder of Brooklyn Con Edison, according to the website www.6sqft.com. The property is currently owned by the Serlin family. Dr. Stephen M. Serlin died over the summer.
Barusch said he has received numerous inquiries from prospective buyers, asking what they can do and cannot do at that property. He even had a call from a real estate agent who said someone asked how much it would cost to demolish the property.
The property is one of about a dozen in Lake George that is on the National Register of Historic Places, according to Barusch. Only two have private owners.
“It predates everybody in this room, probably most of our ancestors,” he said, about Wikiosco. “I would hate personally to see somebody buy it and demolish it. It is, for all intents and purposes, a part of Lake George.”
The Wiawaka retreat house is one of the other historic properties.
Barusch said there are a lot of agencies that govern historic properties, but they do not have as much power as people might think.
“If it’s something of that magnitude, it should be something that this board discusses,” Barusch said.
“It’s not my intent to stop development, but to do this responsibly, we should be involved,” he added.
Board member Nancy Stannard said she believes that the board should look at the issue sooner rather than later.
Stannard agreed it is a delicate balance.
“I would hate to see that be torn down, too, but I would hate to see something stand in her way from selling that property,” she said, referring to Kate Serlin.
Board member Marisa Muratori agreed.
“This is a private residence, and as much as I feel strongly about maintaining the heritage of a community, you can’t force someone to maintain a very expensive property,” she said.
Barusch is going to work on some proposals and report back.