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.