members left little doubt Tuesday that they will delay demolition of Cap'n Jack's Inn for up to nine months.
The panel opted at the end of last night's public hearing to wait until Nov. 1, to vote on the delay question.
But, indicating that they are likely to vote for the delay, several of them said it was their responsibility under the town's delay by-law to try to find an alternative to demolition.
Chair Jean Reardon said removing the three buildings that make up Cap'n Jack's Inn would diminish the town's historic character and forever alter the Humphrey streetscape for all the town's residents.
It remains to be seen whether the delay will do anything but that — delay plans to tear down the buildings and build a 15-unit condo project.
Several people said it was unfair to hold up the developers' plans.
Others said the town owes it to current and future generations to try to preserve the buildings.
About 70 people came to the hearing at the Senior Center.
Opinion in the room was divided.
About half the 15-20 people who spoke wanted no delay in the plans proposed by developers Bruce Paradise and Barry Turkanis; and about half wanted the delay.
The no-delay people rested their position mainly on economics.
Inn owner Dave Rooney said the combination of high taxes and a trying economy makes running an inn for a profit almost impossible.
"Cap'n Jack's will probably not exist as a business much longer," he said.
Developer Bruce Paradise said renovating the buildings for condo use would be too costly since pretty much the entirety would have to be rebuilt.
Supporters also endorsed Paradise's proposed design, questioned Cap'n Jack's historical merit and supported demolition this winter to avoid traffic, noise and dust nine months from now, in July.
Delay supporters rested their support on character, history and responsibility.
Resident Dan Yaeger, CEO of the New England Museum Association, said Cap'n Jack's, built in 1835, is the last surviving vestige of the town's golden era as a summer resort.
"Cap'n Jack's remains the only surviving hotel so it is worth saving," he said.
Others including Mary Cassidy and Mary DeChillo said too many historic homes and buildings have been demolished in Swampscott, taking away a sense of place and history.
Drew Epstein said it is the town's responsibility to preserve the town's past for future generations.
Others including engineer Edward Moll argued that the Cap'n Jack's building facades could be preserved to retain a sense of history.
Yaeger also said preserving historic buildings boosts property values and draws people to locations.
Others argued that demolition can't be undone and it's best to move with caution and consideration.
Even so, several speakers said they think it is too late to do anything but demolish and rebuild.
Paradise and Turkanis have a purchase and sales agreement with Rooney.
The Swampscott Zoning Board approved the developers' plans to construct 15 condo units on the site, though the approval is apparently being appealed in court, Reardon said.
The Historical Commission determined, Sept. 13, that the Cap’n Jack’s buildings are historically significant.
The Sept. 13 vote triggered Tuesday’s demo hearing, which was the second the town has held since it enacted a demolition delay by-law in 2004.
If they vote to delay demolition, the Commission has up to nine months to convince the owner and developer of an alternative to the plan to knock down the buildings.
The ultimate decision is the owner/developer’s call.
Turkanis said after the hearing that he and Paradise plan to buy the building and build the 15-unit development.
"We have every intention to move forward with the project," Turkanis said