Edgartown officials have halted construction on a North Water street home after discovering the building had been demolished far beyond what the historic district commission had approved.

Building inspector Reade Milne issued a cease and desist on the property at 114 North Water street after noticing its roof had been demolished. The project had originally been approved for a 2 per cent demolition over two years ago.

“It’s not a lot of demolition,” Ms. Milne said of the approved build. “They took more and more away from it . . . it just got to a point where I realized I needed to take action.”

Ms. Milne issued the cease and desist on August 30, nearly a week after the roof had been removed. A historic district commission meeting will be scheduled later this fall to discuss how the project can move forward, though the exact date hasn’t been set. Until then, all work on the house has been stopped.

Owners Michael and Rebecca Hegarty applied this spring for a 32 per cent demolition, mainly in the rear of the building. The commission had rejected the rear demolition in May but approved the home be lifted during construction.

In an interview with the Gazette, Mr. Hegarty said structural engineers had determined that much of the house had become too neglected to save. The roof in particular was not up to modern building codes, leading Mr. Hegarty to believe he was within his right to rebuild it.

“I thought it was disappointing how much of the house could not be saved,” Mr. Hegarty said. “I thought we were in agreement about that.”

Mr. Hegarty maintained that to his knowledge, all work done on the building had been within what was permitted in the May historic district meeting.

“I thought I did it to approval,” Mr. Hegarty said. “I guess we had a different understanding or what we were discussing and what was approved.”

Lifts like the one at the North Water street home have become a particular area of concern for the commission, Ms. Milne said, as there have been multiple instances of historic buildings needing to be demolished and rebuilt after being lifted.

“[The historic district commission] took great care to ensure that wasn’t going to happen with this one,” Ms. Milne said.

A permitting breach of this kind has never happened before in Edgartown, Ms. Milne said, although she noted that Tisbury has dealt with a similar issue. The incident comes during what Ms. Milne called an “unprecedented” wave of new construction in Edgartown. Although 2022 saw fewer building permits issued than 2021, it was still the second busiest year in town’s history. As applications increase, so have requests to lift buildings to redo their foundations, Ms. Milne said.

“People want livable basement space,” Ms. Milne said. “They’re not content to live in little old houses anymore...they want newer, bigger, shinier.”

“But also, an old foundation is an old foundation,” she added.

As the historic district commission continues to adapt to shifting building norms, Ms. Milne hopes that this instance can serve as a cautionary tale for permitting officials and applicants alike.

“This is a lesson in policy, in what to approve, and how to make sure this won’t happen again,” she said.