We sympathize with those Clayton residents who fear a century-old house could fall victim to the wrecking ball. Development, both residential and commercial, is changing the face of Clayton, with the potential to indiscriminately raze valuable pieces of the town’s rich history.
But we wonder, in this case, whether saving one house is worth the price.
Residents worried about the house are circulating a petition, which we assume they will present to the town council. But what would the petitioners have the town council do?
Horne Memorial United Methodist Church bought the house but has no use for it. More likely, the church will raze the house to make room for much-needed parking. Would the petitioners have the town council bar the church from building a parking lot, a perfectly legitimate and lawful land use?
Or perhaps the petitioners would have the town buy the house to spare it the wrecking ball. We’re not sure that would be good policy, because the town would be taking a taxpaying property off of the books. That’s not a habit government should get into.
The town, of course, would pay not only the purchase price but also the cost of renovations and yearly maintenance. And for what? What would the town do with the house? Maybe it could become home to a Clayton history museum, but that raises its own questions. Who pays to staff the museum and insure its collection?
Consider too what might happen if the town blocked Horne Memorial from building a parking lot. Like Clayton, the church is growing, and it needs more parking spaces for its burgeoning flock. If the church can’t get that downtown, would it abandon its building for a new building elsewhere? If the petitioners are saddened by the sight of a historic but rundown house, what will they think of an abandoned church in the heart of downtown?
No one wants to see Clayton lose its historic buildings, but clearly, preserving history comes with costs. Perhaps what the Clayton community needs is a debate on how far it’s willing to go to preserve its past.