Wilmington gallery owner hopes to rebuild after Irene

Saturday November 24, 2012

WILMINGTON -- Ann Coleman wants to build a bigger, better gallery in the same spot her old gallery was located.

"This is our third meeting in front of the (Development Review Board)," said Coleman on Tuesday. "Then we have to apply for waivers and variances, and show how we think we fit."

Coleman started going before the DRB with her proposed plan for her new gallery in September, which has to be rebuilt since it was destroyed during Tropical Storm Irene. The proposal includes reconstruction of the previous gallery, a new second story and a newly designed accessibility ramp.

"In a matter of minutes, my gallery years, days, hours and time in my life, were tossed into the lake. It's going to take a lot of effort, money and time," said Coleman. "It has thus far and will continue to. Our lives aren't forever. They are getting shorter and shorter. It's going to take a while to even get all that art that was lost painted again."

The board reviewed setbacks for the proposed gallery, which are the distances from the project lines to other property lines. It looked at how far the old building had been from properties on all four sides, as well as how far the new building would be from those neighboring properties.

Coleman and the board also went over the proposal to gather information for the state that any building owners or project managers would have to submit if they wanted to build or renovate in a flood zone.

The proposed building must adhere to the flood hazard reviews, which says the building must be above a certain elevation or it has to be flood-proofed.

Coleman's proposal is to elevate the building so it will be above base flood elevation. This elevation is higher than where FEMA maps would say the average flood would rise to.

The state has 30 days to review Coleman's new proposal, in regards to flood hazard, then comment on it.

On Jan. 7 at 7 p.m., Coleman will go in front of the DRB again. The board members will look at the project and zoning by-laws, to see if it meets the standards, and then they will make a decision. But it depends on how the project changes and how much new information will be presented.

"Hopefully, it doesn't change much, because it makes it a lot more difficult," said Wilmington Zoning Administrator Alice Herrick. "I hope that we have all the information. We're just waiting for a bit of flood hazard information, and some other comments. Hopefully, they'll be able to say they have everything they need."

This has been one of the more complicated reviews and it has a lot of technical issues in it, Herrick added.

The process has been complicated because the building was a non-conforming structure. Zoning bylaws state that because it was a non-conforming structure and it was destroyed in the flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene, the same building could be rebuilt in the same spot.

The proposal calls for a new building of a bigger size, which adds one more layer to the DRB's decision-making process.

Because the building was non-conforming when it was washed away, she only had a year to rebuild, but last summer, the board approved Coleman's request for a two-year extension for rebuilding her gallery.

"It's designed in a very sympathetic style. There's been nothing but praise for the aesthetics. It's a very carefully, thought-out building for the historic review," said architect for the project, Joe Cincotta of LineSync Architecture. "Ann has been put through a lot of hardship."

He added that the board is put in a difficult position with tough laws and regulations that are admittedly outdated.

"I sat on the planning commission and understand what goes behind it. It's just something that I wish there was a less adversarial way and more helpful way for people who want to make our village a more vibrant one."

The gallery was also in a historic district, which includes a few buildings in downtown Wilmington. Any owner of a building in the district who wants to do any exterior changes, like new doors or windows, has to appear before the DRB. The board decides whether or not it fits in with the historic village.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com


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