As a former Niantic resident, I have read with great interest about the town's interest in preserving the Samuel Smith house and property and applaud any efforts in that direction. As a preservationist who has served for years on the Weston, Mass. Historical Commission, I would like to offer a suggestion.
Many communities have had excellent results with preservation restrictions and conservation easements on properties of historic and/or ecological importance. Restrictions on demolition and unapproved alterations to a building and land are amended to the deed of the property and run for perpetuity.
The town of East Lyme would purchase the property and add these protections. The property can then be resold at a reduced price, reflecting the increased limitations on it. The protected property would remain on the tax rolls, adding to Town revenues rather than reducing them.
House museums across New England are not thriving. The Samuel Smith house can go on for several more centuries, protected and self sustaining, as a private residence with a comprehensive preservation restriction. I wish the town good luck in efforts to preserve this precious piece of East Lyme's history.