The Village of Thomaston’s Landmarks Preservation Commission recommended landmark status be granted by the village to the former Belgrave Motors and Tower Ford building at 124 S. Middle Neck Road during a meeting on Tuesday night.
The five-member commission unanimously recommended the building be granted landmark status after strong community support to preserve the structure and prevent overdevelopment from potentially harming residents’ quality of life. Commission Chairman Donald Stern said landmarking the structure could potentially raise costs for the owner in maintaining, repurposing and redeveloping it along with a potential reduction in its assessed value.
“I wish I had a crystal ball so I could look into the future and see what is going to happen to this property,” Stern said. “But I have come to my own conclusion that the building should be designated as a landmark.”
The state’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation declared the site eligible to be considered as a historic place on Oct. 29.
The building has been a hot-button issue since July, when initial plans were submitted, and subsequently withdrawn, to develop a five-story apartment complex on the property. During the commission’s Jan. 4 meeting, peninsula residents, historical experts and the village’s hired consultant, Archeology Historic Resource Services, made presentations contending that the building deserves the village’s landmark designation.
Stephen Limmer, the legal counsel for 124 Middle Neck Realty LLC, who put forward the plans to develop the five-story apartment, asked the commission during the meeting to adjourn the matter for 120 days so the applicant can “adequately make a presentation to protect its interests.”
Residents asked the panel not to grant Limmer’s request for the delay, saying everyone in the village was aware of the Jan. 4 meeting date when it was scheduled in late November. The commission ultimately decided not to grant the adjournment.
Limmer, in a follow-up letter sent to the village, again asked for the commission to adjourn the matter until May 1 so his client could come up with a multifamily dwelling unit acceptable to the village, despite strong residential opposition. Limmer also said his client does not believe the building deserves to be granted landmark status.
“My client believes that there is no particular historic, aesthetic, or other aspects of the building for which it should be given landmark status thus unduly restricting its use and imposing unjustified added expense to its upkeep,” Limmer said in the letter.
Village residents Aaron and Wendy Halpern submitted a letter to the village rejecting Limmer’s claims and said he and his client “were well-aware of the commission’s pending review for landmark designation.”
In December, the village repealed a local zoning law that, along with the proposal, was met with strong opposition from the public. The law was passed during a July meeting and allowed the Board of Trustees to have “sole and unfettered discretion” on what conditions and incentive use permit may be granted to certain applicants. The law applied to applicants that have a property located partially in the Apartment B and Residence 10 zoning districts, a total area of at least 0.75 acres but not exceeding one acre, a depth at its greatest point of at least 200 feet and street frontage on Middle Neck Road of at least 230 feet.
The property at 124 S. Middle Neck Road, the former site of Tower Ford and the previously proposed apartment complex, lies partly in the Apartment B and Residence 10 zoning districts, has a total area of 0.96 acres, and has a depth of 234 feet, according to village documents.
The commission’s recommendation now goes to the village Board of Trustees, scheduled to meet on Monday, which can affirm or modify the landmarking decision.