Thomaston hires consultant firm to aid in Tower Ford landmark determination – Featured

Thomaston hires consultant firm to aid in Tower Ford landmark determination
The Village of Thomaston Landmark Commission approved the hiring of a consultant to help determine the landmark status of the Tower Ford property on Tuesday night. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

The Village of Thomaston Board of Trustees approved the hiring of a consultant to aid the village’s Landmark Preservation Commission in determining the historical significance of the Tower Ford building during a public meeting on Wednesday.

The commission, on Tuesday, recommended the village hire Archaeology Historic Resource Services for consultant work on whether the structure should be deemed a landmark. Trustees unanimously approved the commission’s recommendations on Wednesday, including a $6,000 limit for the consultant services.

The property has been a hot topic throughout the village after plans were submitted, and subsequently withdrawn, to develop a five-story apartment complex on the site of the building, located at 124 South Middle Neck Road, earlier this year.

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 village’s commission unanimously approved a motion to set a date of Jan. 4 at 7:30 p.m. to conduct a public hearing on whether the property should be designated as a landmark.

Once public hearings are officially concluded, the commission will have 60 days to make a recommendation on the property’s landmark status. Village Attorney A. Thomas Levin said the “clock does not start” for the 60-day deadline until the hearings have concluded, which could potentially extend beyond the scheduled Jan. 4 meeting.

Thomaston Mayor Steven Weinberg did not recuse himself from the vote, despite acknowledging “a request” made to the village that he do so.

“There is no doubt in my mind as with the underlying application, anything with respect to the landmark commission that I personally do not have a conflict of interest,” Weinberg said Wednesday. “I have always held the village’s needs and interests as my guiding standard of any decision I would make.”

A lawsuit filed by some members of the public claims negotiations on the previously proposed project were conducted between the village and the project’s developer inappropriately. Some residents also claim the village did not properly evaluate the project’s environmental impact on the rest of the community.

The application was initially presented to the village, with one member of the public present, during a public meeting in July. A June 9 email from the developer’s attorney, Stephen Limmer to Levin was provided to Blank Slate Media, discussing permissible workforce housing in the proposed project.

“The Mayor agreed to less than 10% workforce housing,” Limmer wrote in the email.

“The proposal, as agreed with the Mayor, is 9%,” he also wrote.

Weinberg, in a phone interview, referred to a statement sent out in November regarding the village’s conduct throughout the project’s application process and declined to comment further due to the pending litigation.

“It saddens me to have to specifically address certain reckless falsehoods, especially for those of you who know me personally,” Weinberg said in the statement. “I and your entire Village Board of Trustees did not, have not and will not take anything of any value and did not, have not and will not make any deals with the applicant or any applicant.”

Village officials said the application, submitted by 124 Middle Neck Realty LLC, was withdrawn a month ago due to the applicant choosing not to send out the required legal notice for the hearing and not paying the $25,000 deposit to the village for an engineering consulting firm.

Village officials scheduled a Dec. 20 public hearing to repeal a local zoning law that was set in place earlier this year relating to the proposed apartment.

The law was passed during the July meeting and, along with the proposal, has been heavily criticized by the public. The law allows the Board of Trustees to have “sole and unfettered discretion” on what conditions and incentive use permit may be granted to certain applicants. The new law applies 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 meets those criteria, according to village documents.

Thomaston hires consultant firm to aid in Tower Ford landmark determination