Town must save Mead Park barn / Robin M. Beckett
Published 5:43 pm, Wednesday, January 19, 2011
The time has come for the Town to make a sound decision based on facts and withdraw its plans for demolition of the barn regardless of the demolition cost. And the time has come to give supporters of the Barn a chance to repurpose its use, to utilize the vast resources available from the state to make this investment and for the Town to be a good neighbor and an exemplary manager of its assets both fixed and financial. Here are some facts to consider:
Support for the Barn
The barn could qualify for approximately $700,000 of grants, of which approximately $500,000 are outright. Most importantly, because it is owned by a municipality and on the CT Register of Historic Places the Barn qualifies for many types of grants. See www.meadparkbrickbarn.blogspot.com for list of sources and amounts.
Qualifies for the Barn Grants
The Town's "garage" in 1901 was the barn occupied solely by horses and carts used to deliver the Standard Oil Depot's fuel and today is qualified to apply from CT Trust for grants from the Barn Grant Program (www.cttrust.org/1084) because it is at least 75 years old, it is listed on the CT Register (11/10), and is located in a public view-shed .
The Town's adaptive reuse of the Barn as a garage -- taking an historic structure and repurposing it for modern use -- has not been successful within the public park as it let the barn fall into disrepair, become overgrown with shrubs and be used as a truck parking lot. This is not a reason for demolition. Successful adaptive reuse considers location, accessibility, maintenance and purpose. The Barn has location and accessibility but requires improved maintenance and a park-appropriate use that would visually and productively contribute to the neighborhood and community.
CT Historical and
The Barn was not part of the 1987 HARS in New Canaan because that survey had limited funding and therefore limited scope. Many other important structures were also excluded. In 2010, the New Canaan Preservation Alliance, funded entirely by the state, began a new comprehensive survey with the intention of inventorying all the Town's structures of a certain age, not just a sample. The eastern portion of the downtown survey is now complete and will be filed soon in the library, with the Planning Department and at the Historical Society.
CT Register of
The process and outcome of listing a structure on the CT Register is generally misunderstood. The Register's listing carries prestige and offers restricted access to significant state funding: specifically up to $200,000 for capital improvement. Criteria for listing a structure do not include a town's plans for its demolition but only the structure's historic, architectural and cultural importance. Anyone can present an application to the CT Historic Preservation Council, not just the owners. Independent state-appointed professionals, who are not in contact with the applicant, evaluate proposals.
Town's Intention to Demolish
The Town's 10-year-old plan for demolition is not relevant since the adoption of the Demolition Delay Ordinance of 2006 which establishes a specific process and timetable for demolitions of historic properties. The ordinance allows a "delay" of 90 days to a demolition but does stop it. The ordinance requires the review committee "to reach out proactively" to owners and inform them "of tax benefits, grants, and economic, cultural and aesthetic benefits of historic preservation, and to encourage the preservation, rehabilitation and reuse of such structures," yet this information and encouragement was not presented to the Town during the hearing.
There is widespread and expanding public support for keeping and repurposing the barn. See www.gopetition.com/petition/39476.html especially petitioners' comments. Lists of resident petitioners by name -- more than 500 including all petitions circulated by the Friends of Mead Park Brick Barn -- were handed to Jeb Walker in November. Support for demolition appears to be from a very small but vocal group who do not necessarily represent the views of New Canaan residents as a whole.
There is no legal requirement to use funds previously appropriated for a discretionary demolition. The barn is structurally sound; engineers have estimated a cost of between $100,000 to $200,000 to make it code compliant. Rehabilitation grants are available.
The barn occupies a footprint of 800 square feet in Mead Park's 24 acres which is .08 percent or less than a 10th of a percent of the park's land. The argument to eliminate the barn for open space cannot be taken seriously.
Town officials should abandon the demolition plan for the Mead Park Brick Barn. Instead they should acknowledge citizen support for its adaptive reuse, recognize and take advantage of state funding for its improvement and embrace ideas to see it as an opportunity rather than a problem.