By RACHAEL LONG
Saving the Morton Brittain historic home has become coffee table talk in Nolensville since November, when it became clear that the 1870 home was in jeopardy of destruction.
A developer plans to tear down the Morton-Brittain Historic Home to make way for new development by the end of the month.
Planning commissioner and Vice Mayor Jason Patrick engaged in the town’s most trending conversation toward the end of the Planning Commission meeting on Jan. 8. Patrick bent the Commissions’ ear on for several minutes and urged the city leaders to consider the importance of the next few weeks.
“We have until the end of this month to move the house,” Patrick told the commission, noting the short turnaround time before developers plan to demolish the home. “There’s a lot of moving parts to this process.”
Patrick delivered a passionate speech to commissioners imploring them to see the value preserving of one of the town’s three homes on the National Register of Historic Places.
“One of the things I think we are all very sensitive to and take pride in when it comes to the Town of Nolensville is our heritage,” Patrick said. “I would hate to see us lose what has such history to our town.”
All it takes to see the town’s rapid growth is a drive down its main street, Nolensville Road. On either side, developments are being built and new restaurants and shopping centers pop up all the time. Patrick noted this growth in his address to the commission.
“I feel like we have some level of responsibility of preserving the history that we have,” Patrick said. “Not everything that’s been here for 100 years needs to be torn down for a new retail center.”
While no formal plans have been announced, Patrick said there is a group of people in Nolensville “feverishly” trying to come up with a solution to save the home. He mentioned vaguely a few of those plans and sought the counsel of Town Attorney Bob Notestine.
One of those options would require the historic zoning commission to approve the home’s relocation to a historic district, a move which may allow it to keep its status on the National Register.
Another option Patrick mentioned seemed more complicated and included moving the home to a “safe harbor location” which would require a planned urban development (PUD) revision. This, he said, would require processes and steps be taken which will take more time than is left.
“We’re not in the situation right now where the chicken can come before the egg,” Patrick said, explaining the plan’s complications.
He said the group trying to save the home was considering every option possible option. This plan, Patrick noted, may actually be a short-term solution while a long-term solution is hammered out.
Patrick asked Notestine if it would be possible for the planning commission to publicly state, in some fashion, that it would consider a PUD revision, even though the move had already taken place.
Notestine mentioned the house in its current state was “not habitable.”
“It’s not really a residence, it’s a structure, it’s a shell,” Notestine said. “I really haven’t seen anything on our ordinances that would prevent a safe harbor temporary parking of that structure on somebody’s private property.”
If the property stayed and became a residence, Notestine said he thought the planning commission would have to get involved and it may become a different matter. But if the owner of a private property wanted to house an “uninhabitable” structure as a safe harbor, Notestine said he thinks it’s a possibility.
Whatever the solution, Patrick, Notestine and the rest of the commission seemed to sense the urgency.
“If ultimately the house is not saved, is not moved, then at least we can look back and say we have done everything we could possibly do to save it,” Patrick said.
The Nolensville Historical Society has a GoFundMe account set up to take donations which would help pay to move the home and avoid demolition.