BEACON FALLS — A committee charged to explore municipal uses for property that the town bought in 2008 has recommended tearing down the former home of Tracy Lewis, president of the Beacon Falls Rubber Shoe Co.
The Wolfe Avenue “Lewis House” Exploratory Committee has recommended to the Board of Selectmen the demolition of the pinkish-beige house at 35 Wolfe Ave.
According to a letter dated Aug. 9 to First Selectman Susan Ann Cable, the committee recommended that a new building committee be formed to look into a 19,000-square-foot library and community center for the property.
It also suggested demolishing the carriage house on site when the main house is set for demolition. Other recommendations included removing trees, involving the Beacon Falls Historical Society in recreating the main house’s dining and living rooms in a potential new structure, and seeking legal advice about possible mold hazards, the letter states.
The town has been studying the property since residents in August 2008 approved the $425,000 purchase. The wood-frame house occupies a 1.5-acre site, and is a street away from Town Hall.
Earlier this year, the town signed a contract with Paul B. Bailey Architect of New Haven to explore how best to use the property. The architect finished a conditions assessment and reuse study, and recommendations included renovating the house with an addition, or demolishing it and building a new structure. In the summary, it said the house is an “excellent candidate” for more study and preservation.
Preliminary cost to renovate the house with an addition is $4.2 million, while it would cost $3.9 million to demolish it and build a 19,000-square-foot building, according to the architect’s study.
Selectmen took up the committee’s recommendations Monday. It will now go, with the study, to the Planning and Zoning Commission for review to make a decision in 35 days, Cable said. In conjunction with that, selectmen will meet with state historical preservation officials to see what state funding is available if the house is restored.
Cable said the committee did what it was asked to do, and is now dissolved. She said the town’s intention when buying the property was to study it for a future use, not to restore its historical significance.
Selectman Michael A. Krenesky, who is the town historian, disputed that, saying the majority of people who voted on the property thought it was going to be integrated into the project. Krenesky, who said he voted no to disband the committee and accept the report, said he didn’t agree with the outcome of the report, and wasn’t sure if all work was completed.
If you have concerns over the 2:00 PM meeting time, please contact the 1st Selectman and ask why she never asked the other members of the Board of Selectmen if this date and time would be acceptable to them. As it turned out I was available, the other Selectman had to change his appointments in order to attend. I found out about the date and time by reading the posting!
Hopefully the Citizen News and other newspapers will attend to complement the meeting minutes, so that everyone will get a complete representation of the discussion.
For those who have been following this story, I understand the meeting with the group Mike Krenesky referred to in his last post, has been scheduled for 2:00 on Thursday, September 9th in the Town Hall Assembly Room. I am disappointed that I, as I am sure others who work, will not be able to hear what is being said. It would have been better to have scheduled such a meeting at a time when more people would have been able to attend this meeting.
Once again the leaders of the town just don’t get it. We vote down the budget three times because it was to high,yet you want to waste our money on a run down money pit. Knock the piece of carp down and quit wasting time on it. Better yet,try doing the job you were put in office to do.
Michael, I respectfully disagree that there is not a plan. There is a plan for the library which includes areas for community use within the building project. That was part of the Long Range Plan which was finished in June, 2008. No, it has not been brought to the public for a vote yet, but the foundations are being put in place. The first step was to create the building plan (done), the next one was to acquire property (done). The library building committee was waiting until the Wolfe Avenue Committee completed their task (done). A plan can not be brought forward to be voted on until all the pieces are in place. Thank you, Michael, for giving your input into the process. Please make sure all know when this next meeting will take place, if it has already been scheduled.
I am not going to list their names here, but Please attend the meeting being scheduled by the 1st Selectman with the representative from the CT Trust for Historic Preservation and the CT Commission on Culture & Tourism – History Division, and you can meet them in person.
I am going to also suggest & request that the 1st Selectman invite the Bailey Agency, so they can explain their report and entertain questions as necessary.
Invite your friends and we can all hear the information at the same time.
Mr. Krenesky, please give the source of the “State funding for the renovation of buildings like” the one on Wolfe Avenue and give information regarding the amount of money available. Where may we verify this statement?
While I am not interested in debating this issue in this forum with an unnamed individual through an alias, I will make several additional points.
First, there is no Project, No Plan, and no 19,000 sq ft building. Until there is a plan for the voters to approve, much of this conversation is just several of us moving hot air.
The Bailey Adaptive Reuse Report identifies two possible building options, one without the house, and the second…renovating and including the house in the new Town facility. The Report uses the Library concept document as the basis for its concept designs. In the original Library study, after collecting information from many sources, it was determined that a 19,000 sq ft Library would be needed to house the many programs being suggested.
Therefore the Bailey Report suggests building ONLY a 19,000 sq ft Library and not the multi-function facility Bf_Resident comments on. Since there is no plan, we have no idea how large a structure would be necessary to house the Community Center and Library.
An incorrect statement, ‘there would only be 16,000 ft for the Library/Community building’ is misinformation. The house contains approximately 3,000 sq ft that would be used for Library offices, meeting rooms, and reading areas. The Library would still be 19,000 sq ft. as presented in the Bailey Report.
As to a conflict of interest on my part, I am trying to preserve the culture & historical heritage that is Beacon Falls. There is an intangible long term economic benefit and of course, recognizing and preserving Beacon Falls history is worth this effort.
On the economic side, I am working with a valley group that is preparing an application to name the Naugatuck Valley a National Heritage area through the US Interior Dept/Park Service. There is ten (10) million dollars in grant funding available for the Towns that are part of this effort. The Heritage area designation and grant funding may also benefit the development of the Toby’s Pond Recreation Area and the Library/Community Center complex.
There is State funding for the renovation of buildings like the Lewis House. Now that a required Reuse Report has been completed, the Bd of Selectmen will be meeting with the History Division of the Tourism Board on what funding we might apply for to reduce the cost of whatever project is finally approved by the voters.
I am trying to reduce the cost of this potential building project, not delaying the start as was suggested.
The property was what was voted for, not the house. It was not called the “Lewis House” until Mr. Krenesky started to call it that. The property is in a prime location for a library/community center and if it wasn’t for Mr. Krenesky going after a grant for a study of the house, then this would not have been an issue at all and we could have moved forward much earlier on this project. His actions stalled the project for a year. Leaving the house standing reduces its further functionality for the town – there would only be 16,000 square feet available for a new library/community center. Mr. Krenesky is acting as the municipal historian and that is conflicting with his role as a selectman.
Three important points left out of this article:
(1) that the 1st Selectman directed the Lewis Exploratory Committee not to use the ‘cost’ of a building project as part of the criteria in determining their recommendation. In conversations with the committee and in their recommendation letter, cost was a primary reason.
(2) There is no development plan for the property with or without the house, so why would you recommend demolishing the house and reducing the value of the property? I have argued the public voted to invest $425,000 because of the house! Who would vote to pay this much for raw land as the 1st Selectman has suggested. The taxpayer is waiting for a Town to bring forward a plan, so they can make in informed decision.
Lastly, the 1st Selectman has questioned the historical value of this house to the Town. During the August Bd of Selectmen’s meeting, she stated that she understands the historic nature of the entire ‘Hill’ because of its connection to Fredrick Law Olmsted firm, yet seems not to have read the Bailey document that reports that the Lewis House is the primary feature of the 1915 Olmsted plan of development for the hill.
Michael A Krenesky – Municipal Historian