A member of the city's Preservation Commission says a recent decision by city officials that might mean the wrecking ball for a downtown landmark shows an underlying disregard for the city's historic buildings.
"While I can't speak for all of the people of Bountiful, I just feel like being second oldest community in the state that we need to preserve our local heritage and history. I don't see the city doing that," said Leslie Foy, a commission member and Utah history teacher at South Davis Junior High.Foy said both the Planning Commission and City Council failed to ask the Preservation Commission's opinion of a preliminary decision to approve a development at Fifth South and Second West that would include a 44,000-square-foot food store, retail strip mall and two other commercial buildings. The 7.2 acres owned by the descendants of Joseph Morris Palmer include a home at 515 S. Second West built in 1874 and listed on the National Historic Register.
"I don't know whether the Palmer home is any more historic than any of the other homes built at the time, but it's the underlying tone of the city (government). They just seem to have little regard for the history of our community. Something has got to be preserved along the way," Foy said. "We don't have too many old homes left."
He hopes that developers of the project, Boise-based Cantlon Properties, would consider saving the historic home as a museum. He also believes that the city ought to adopt stiffer historic preservation ordinances and hold public hearings before landmarks are demolished.
Roger Cantlon, owner of Cantlon Properties, said Monday the fate of the home is still up in the air. He said he is willing to talk to the Preservation Commission about making the home a museum. He said his company is still negotiating with a number of unnamed grocery store chains to become tenants, and a final decision on project plans should be made between 90 and 120 days.
"We really want to have a dialogue and do the best project for the community," Cantlon said.
Jon Reed Boothe, Bountiful city planning director, also said the Planning Commission had told Cantlon that the home was "nothing sacred" to city residents. Council Member Keith Barton said the council approved the preliminary plan without realizing that a historic building was threatened.
"It bothers me that they set up a commission and don't give us any kind of notification," Foy said, recalling when the historic Thurgood Ice Cream store was demolished. Members of the Preservation Commission were informed with just about enough time to take a picture before the building was turned into rubble, he said.
According to its application to the National Historic Register, the Palmer home was built in 1874 by Wilber Burnham. It was later sold to James Foss Townsend and passed on to Joseph Morris Palmer, who married Townsend's daughter. It is one of the few houses from Utah's pioneer period that is a "temple form" house inspired by Greek Revivalism.
Joseph Palmer, one the family members selling the property, including a handful of newer homes, said the family would like to see the pioneer home remain. But he said he would oppose the city adopting preservation ordinances that would impinge on rights of property owners.