Woodstock officials will look for further guidance from a state office on seeking historic preservation status for the elderly mansion atop the 76 acre Comeau property that the town uses for its main offices. Woodstock voters approved borrowing $1 million last November to use toward a much needed $2.9 million renovation and a 2350-square-foot addition to the main building. The rest of the money will come from a capital reserve fund.
Town Historian and former Town Councilman Richard Heppner has been looking into the possibility of obtaining historic status for the building and what effect that might have on renovation plans. Heppner told the Town Board at its February 15 meeting that he has been speaking with Sara McIvor, a technical preservationist from the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). “I took her through the whole process from the beginning of the easement issue all the way through and basically talked about the need to preserve the building,” Heppner said. “If we ever do go for historical designation, it is not going to be good if the building falls down. And she kind of realizes…you know, her phrase was, we’re kind of between a rock and a hard place on all this.”
McIvor stressed the need to be concerned about not removing, obscuring or damaging any original woodwork or anything inside the building. “One of her main concerns was for [the] addition. Where was it located? Is it all that visible and in particular, is it behind the building?” Heppner said. “I do need to stress all this eventually is advisory. It is up to the town, what the town wants to do as owners of the building…The state cannot impose anything, but they can advise us and she is willing to help us get through the process if we need her help. And I think we will.”
Heppner said he will need some time to digest the information sent by the SHPO representative. SHPO recently determined the building is eligible for historic preservation status, but the town must file an application. Supervisor Bill McKenna and Councilman Bennet Ratcliff have agreed to assist Heppner with the process.
Tree Committee Chair Michael Veitch expressed concern about soliciting bids for a building renovation and addition before the town has a clear sense of whether it will seek historic designation, but McKenna said the project is not at that phase.
“We’re not quite ready to go out to bid at this point I’m not sure when we will be. So we’ll see where it lands,” McKenna responded. “We’ll meet with SHPO and get a better understanding and then make a decision.”
In the plans, offices on the second floor will move to the first-floor addition and the rest of the building will get new insulation, electrical upgrades and a new heating system.
The supervisor’s cottage, a separate building, will be in line for similar upgrades.