The Historic District Commission may thwart construction of a new fire station at 139 The Great Road.
The property at 30 North Road – currently the Bedford Motel – appeared to HDC members as the obvious alternative.
Although the purchase of 139 The Great Road will not be decided until the annual municipal meeting on March 28, commission members met on Monday to review their role in the process.
The property, a 19th-century apartment building plus outbuildings, is owned by Utah State University, which intends to sell it. The city and the owner have agreed on a purchase price of $1.55 million.
Although commission member Sal Canciello claimed towards the end of the hour-long conversation that “everyone here has an open mind”, the tenor of the discussion was not favorable to the authorization of demolishing the existing structure, not to mention approving a design.
Normally, there are five HDC members. But one of them, President William Moonan, is a scorer at the property in question and must legally recuse himself from the process. In addition, normally there are two substitute members, but both positions are vacant.
Thus, a majority of the five-member council must approve a certificate of desirability for demolition. And only one of them, Karl Winkler, indicated that he would try to find a solution in which the fire station could be built while respecting the character of the historic district, “for the public good”.
But his colleagues disagreed. Canciello emphasized state guidelines that discourage demolition only as a last resort. Alan Long argued that the sole responsibility of the panel is to ensure the integrity of the district. Karen Kalil-Brown has repeatedly claimed that the town assembly two years ago approved eminent domain proceedings to acquire 175 The Great Road for a fire station site. This proposal was postponed indefinitely at a pandemic-shortened annual municipal meeting.
All attending members spoke favorably of city officials pivoting to the Bedford Motel at 30 North Road, which is also in the historic district but is not a historic structure. This address was not on the list of potential locations because it is beyond the balanced response time limits at the ends of the city along the Great Road from Loomis Street to Willson Park. However, it is only a few hundred meters north of the park.
Despite their split, the commission attempted to find common ground for a general statement to the city assembly. “While we can’t predict how our vote will turn out, it’s important for the city to understand ‘the role of HDC,'” Long commented. signal that maybe some of these other sites they’ve been considering shouldn’t just be thrown away.”
Canciello, the commission’s architect, noted that under state law, HDC must consider demolition and new design together. Long pointed out that this is unfortunate because the city would spend money planning an installation that may not be permitted.
Winkler questioned the historical value of the current building. “I ask the question how historic this structure is. Was the original house demolished and rebuilt there? It really does not appear to be a converted carriage house.
But Long countered that there was significance in “its proximity to adjacent structures,” and Canciello pointed out that state guidelines for commissions not only mention architectural character and historic features, but also “the history of the people who built and occupied it and its importance to the city.”
The address was part of the estate of Jonathan Bacon, a prominent 19th-century resident whose main residence was the building just to the east.
Winkler said he was worried about how long it would take to identify and consume another location. The property at 139 The Great Road is available now.
“Many of the variables are city issues. Our job has nothing to do with those things – our job is what will this new fire station look like if it ends up in the historic district? Winkler replied that profitability should be a consideration, but Long said that in his role as taxpayer, not commissioner.
“I think we all understand that we need a new fire station,” Long said. “We have to decide if we are doing the right thing for the city by protecting the historic character of the neighborhood. It has nothing to do with how long it takes to build a facility.
“I’m very concerned about what the entrance to our historic district will look like for everyone,” Long said. A fire station there “kinda casts a shadow over the commitment that we have as HDC”.
“The fabric of this part of town has a very specific character,” Canciello observed, incorporating houses, the green space between them, the “streetscape.” He said he was concerned about “a giant curb cut” to accommodate the driveway and paved deck. “Where would the human entry be? Crushed next to four garage bays? Around the back is not a good arrangement for a civic building in a historic district.
“Until we see a design, it’s a challenge to visualize all these nebulous things,” the architect said.
Kalil-Brown was the first to offer 30 North Road as an option, pointing out that it is three-tenths of a mile from the current fire station. Winkler agreed and added that signage for the intersection of North, Concord and The Great Roads might make the site more palatable. Maybe the lights could be coordinated with the emergency lighting in front of the station, Long said. “We would have to talk to the experts about what the trade-off is to move a little further away from the city’s industrial area east of Highway 3,” Canciello said.
“Having a fire station instead of this motel and an old package store, with proper HDC input on the design, could be a huge improvement for this end of town,” Long commented. He said it would be like trading one commercial use for another. Canciello remarked, “Everything would be an improvement.” Winkler agreed with that sentiment.
“One variable is the ability to move quickly with this property,” Winkler said, which is especially important because it’s difficult to attract and retain staff “who live in a third-world country environment.”
He said, “We have to consider this as part of the greater good.” But Long replied, “I don’t believe the public good comes within our charter.” He commented: “I don’t think there is a public safety issue here. I don’t believe the city’s problem is difficult either,” because two years ago it was proposed to spend $7.5 million to acquire 175 The Great Road.
Winkler also suggested that the current building, if historic, could be moved or even converted into residential space for on-duty firefighters. “I’m trying to find other alternatives if we have to stay put.”
He also pointed out that the commission may require a landscaped buffer to separate neighboring residences as well as the view from the street.
Winkler observed that “from an architectural perspective, there are styles that could fit into the fabric very well” of this section of the neighborhood. Canciello noted that “we’re not supposed to copy historical styles. It should respect the original buildings and be appropriate in scale, proportion, character, size and materials, but not try to imitate the style. »
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at [email protected], or 781-983-1763