Friday, February 5, 2010
Historical Commission supports Bog House CPA application
The Land Stewardship Committee (LSC) asked the Historical Commission to support its application for Community Preservation Act (CPA) funding to restore the Cranberry Bog Conservation Land’s large wooden farm building when they spoke at the commission’s meeting on January 26. Warren Lyman of the LSC acknowledged that the Conservation Commission is the sponsoring town board of its application, but stated the Bog House is of historical value as well as an important component in preserving open space. The structure satisfies both CPA categories of historic preservation and open space.
Now a town-owned building, the Cranberry Bog House was built in 1905 to support the operations of the Cranberry Bog. It still supplies storage space for farm equipment, and provides two apartments for farm employees. Since its construction, a bog caretaker has always lived on the premises; there was even a time when the fourth floor became a temporary dormitory for migrant workers when they came to work during the six weeks of berry season.
Lyman explained that the wood framed and shingled Bog House is a scenic and historic addition to the vista along Curve Street, a testimony to the more than 100 years it has served as an important part of bog agriculture. If the building deteriorates much more over the next few years, it may have to be razed. Lyman stated that the building must be restored by 2015, when Farmer Mark Duffy’s lease is up. As explained to Lyman by Duffy, neither he nor any other farmer would be interested in farming the bog if there is no structure to house farm equipment. It was speculated that if the town cannot find a farmer to work the Cranberry Bog, then the land would revert back to scrub, and maintenance of the dikes and water control structures may revert to the town’s DPW. If agriculture ceases at the bog, the town may also lose state-granted water rights that are associated with active agricultural use of the land. (Duffy pays the town in-kind by keeping the bog in good condition in lieu of rent.)
An inspection of the building by the LSC committee revealed major problems. Among the many issues are: 1) Structural – posts, beams and joists have been compromised by powder post beetles and need to be replaced; 2) Safety updates such as a new emergency exit from the second floor to the outside are required. Lyman stressed that it is necessary to act in a timely manner to secure a safe and stable building to ensure that a farmer farms the Cranberry Bog after Duffy’s lease is up in 2015. Waiting a few years to ask for CPA money will only have a deleterious effect; the house will deteriorate and the estimated repairs will become more costly.
Commission member Peggy Hilton wondered if the restoration of the Bog House falls within the CPA Historic Preservation guidelines. Commissioner Sylvia Sillers, who is also on the Community Preservation Committee which hears CPA grant requests, said that it does fall under the guidelines, but that funding applies only for external restoration. Chairman Marc Lamere wanted assurance that the exterior would have new cedar siding. Warren confirmed that it would.
Hilton also wondered if the Historical Commission had any right to sponsor a project outside of the town center. Liz Carpenter, former chair of the Historical Commission and current LSC member, stated that historic buildings outside of the Historic District do fall within its purview. The Historical Commission can encourage and guide people, but that guidance is strictly advisory outside of the historic district.
Currently the CPA has a total of $140,000, mostly in its undesignated account.
LSC estimates that the cost for the renovation will be $160,000, but will ask the CPA for only $100,000. It is hoped that if they get the requested CPA funds of $100,000, then the LSC will ask the town for the $60,000 remainder at Town Meeting.
Chip Dewing “moved that the Historical Commission support the Conservation Commission’s application for the preservation of the Cranberry Bog House on 750-752 Curve Street as described in the project application draft as reviewed on January 26, 2010.” The commission voted to support the Bog House restoration.
• Historical survey. In other commission business, Ann Forbes and Gretchen Schuler will finish the town’s historical survey report by February 1. The commission would like to celebrate and publicize this landmark survey. There will be more on this at a later meeting.
• Town center signage. Chairman Marc Lamere relayed information received from Town Counsel in regard to historic district signage. Currently, signs are allowed in the historic district for no more than 30 days. Lamere had asked Town Counsel to determine who has the right of enforcement when signs are posted on private property or in the public right-of-way for 30 days or more. Counsel wrote that the Historical Commission’s Rules and Regulations give the Commission the right to enforce the removal of signs that have been posted for 30 days or more in the historic district. The Historical Commission will assess the information over the next month, and explore enforcement policy such as the giving out of fines.
• Resignation. Chip Dewing will not seek reappointment to the Historical Commission at the end of his term in June of 2010.∆
© 2010 The