But the meeting had intense debate, particularly between Commission Chair Kathleen Szyska and Town Manager Andrew Maylor.
A few months ago, selectmen voted to approve a deal with Hearthstone Realty, which plans to demolish the Bradstreet building and build an enlarged plaza area and retail space along Main Street, 9,500 square feet of office space on the second floor, several townhouses and flats, and 73 total spaces.
According to town bylaw, the Historical Commission must be notified of any plans to demolish a building 100 years or older and have the right to deem the building historically significant. They must then hold a public hearing within 30 days.
Thursday night, the Commission had diagrams displayed of another proposal that would have kept the Bradstreet School standing.
Maylor stood up at the beginning of the meeting to emphasize that no other plans, by the Commission or otherwise, can be considered for the approved project.
"This is the first time we've come across a situation like this, where it's a municipally owned building," Kathleen Szyska, chair of the North Andover Historical Commission, said.
There is no way to work with developers to change plans and save the school, Maylor pointed out. Once a proposal is selected during the proposal process, the construction must be according to the approved plan.
Szyska and other Commission members seemed unclear on this, but they took Maylor at his word that indeed the Commission could not negotiate with Hearthstone to save the building.
In fact, Maylor pointed out, Hearthstone is prepared to wait out any Historical Commission delay and then resume demolition and construction.
Given that there could be no major altering of the plan, what would the purpose of a demolition delay be? The answer is blunt.
"Then our hands are tied, if you're saying there's nothing we can do to change their minds, there is nothing that we can do," Szyska said. "I almost shouldn't say this, but I will -- The only end result if this Commission votes to invoke the demolition delay, it has sent a warning shot over the bow of the boat that says North Andover cares about its historical buildings."
Maylor replied by urging the commission to avoid symbolism in its vote. Also in the meeting, Maylor stressed that the building costs $40,000-to-$50,000 a year to maintain.
"A quarter million has been spent to maintain the property since this dialogue has been going on," Maylor said.
"We're not charged with being concerned with the town spending $40,000 to $50,000 on the building this year," Szyska said "That is not our concern."
"Our function is to maintain some quality of life and try to preserve the history of this town," Historical Commission member Anne Erickson said. "I don't think the Bradstreet School is fated to remain an empty building forever, there are different plans that could be looked at."
Lack of Communication?
Szyska repeatedly said she wished the selectmen would have had a dialogue with the Historic Commission.
"That's unfair," Maylor said. "I'm going to stand up for the selectmen here, that's not fair."
Bill Perkins of Hearthstone stood up and echoed that thought, pointing out that when they were giving their proposals no one from the Historic Commission showed up to voice their opposition.
"Nobody came and said you supported keeping the building," Perkins said. "I don't think it's fair to us or to the town. It was an open process."
Selectman Dick Vaillancourt attended the meeting and said he was unaware that the project was being addressed frequently at Historical Commission meetings.
And Selectman Don Stewart said that while he initially supported a proposal to save the Bradstreet building, he supports the approved Hearthstone plan because it fills out the property on the Saunders Street side as well. Stewart, like others who attended the meeting opposed to a delay, suggested thinking of a way to commemorate the building somehow.
"You could use this time to get some kind of a monument," he said. "If this [the Hearthstone project] doesn't go through, you could have the Bradstreet School sitting there for 30 years, in disrepair," Stewart said.
Since the demolition delay bylaw was enacted in 2007, the Historical Commission has only used it once, for a historic house on Greene Street. After 12 months, the developer tore down that house anyway.
"We're not frivolous about how we pull a demolition delay," Szyska said.