Comeau property calls for historic preservation aid as referendum on $ 1 million bonds goes to voters


As Woodstock nears its November 2 vote on a bond issue to borrow money to renovate the old mansion on the Comeau property used as the city’s office building, Woodstock City Councilor Richard Heppner , said he was in talks with state officials to secure historic preservation assistance. for the building and possibly for the whole property. “I’ve had a number of conversations with the state, with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). They have a technical support service division, ”said Heppner, who is also the city’s historian. “I sent them stories, I sent them biographies. The architect sent them pictures. They have in fact now requested additional images. Today I took exterior elevation photos and they also want interior images, ”he told city council at the October 19 meeting. “When you go through these things, they get pretty technical. There are questions that need to be answered, without a doubt… the impact of the proposed addition, the uniqueness of the building, both inside and out… as I said, on which I work.

Heppner said there was more work to be done, including more photo submissions. He is a little concerned about some of the work that has been done in the past. “Especially the cuisine, which is no longer original, shall we say,” Heppner said. “For me, people can vote for or against the link. This is not what it is for me in my head, as a historian. My concern is to do what is right for the property and the building, ”he said. “And I think I’ve expressed that enough to (supervisor) Bill (McKenna) and some of the board members.”

When asked if the additions to the renovation plans could negatively affect the prospects for obtaining the property’s historic designation (as well as the financing that could go with it), Heppner did not make a commitment. “They’re not sure he qualifies at all, but if he does, then we go ahead,” he said. “If the link passes, I guess we could make some adjustments. It’s a long process. That won’t happen by November 2.

Heppner noted that many SHPO employees were working from home due to COVID-19, and said he was trying to show them around the property, but is not sure if they are traveling. “An interesting thing here… and I’ve been through this stuff before, I’ve written a few, and they’re all long and very technical, but there is an opportunity to broaden our focus here,” , said Heppner. “Technical services informed me that they would also consider working with us not only on the building, but on the property as a whole. They include things like a view shelter, landscaping… ”

“Trails?” McKenna interjected.

“The trails, all of those things,” replied Heppner.

He added that the property was originally part of the Rick Farm

“Philip Rick was a farmer in the early 1800s,” he said. “Philip Rick was the man who developed… the Jonathan apple. So this could add an extra boost to the whole project. “

Heppner explained that there are three factors involved in historic preserves.

“One is, did a major event happen there, did a major historical figure live there, then the architectural aspect of it,” Heppner said. “The Jonathan apple is a big deal, and if we could make those connections it would make the project even stronger. “

McKenna has come under fire at recent fire station meetings for investigating historic preservation so late in the process, with some critics saying there was money available to restore the building.

The Commission for Civic Design said it was essentially shut out of the project after asking for alternative designs as early as 2019.

The $ 2.9 million renovation designed by Walker Architecture includes a 2,000 square foot addition and energy efficiency upgrades to the Supervisor’s Cabin, which houses the offices of the Supervisor and Accountant. The back of the referendum is asking voters for permission to borrow $ 1 million for the project. The remaining $ 1.9 million will come from a capital reserve, which has accumulated funds from budget surpluses from previous years.

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