This is the wording of the article that will appear on the May 7 Annual Town Meeting warrant:
As registered voters of the Town of Hanover, we hereby petition the Board of Selectmen (as allowed under Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 39, Section 10) to insert the following article into the Warrant for the Annual Town Meeting to be held on Monday, May 7, 2012:
“To see if the Town will vote to rescind its vote under Article 28 of the May 2, 2011 Annual Town Meeting, and to direct the Hanover Historical Commission to appoint a Curtis School Task Force to conduct a comprehensive review, involving any applicable town departments, boards, committees, community groups, and private parties, of all available data and options for the building and land at 848 Main Street, including, but not limited to, repair, renovation, alteration, adaptive reuse, sale or lease of structures. Said Task Force shall issue its report and recommendations no later than the next Annual Town Meeting, or to take any other action in relation thereto.”
What is the purpose of this article?
The purpose of this article is to establish a process by which the town conducts a comprehensive study of the options available for preserving the building known as theCurtisSchool. Under Section 6-26, the bylaw establishing the demolition delay, the Hanover Historical Commission is empowered to “adopt such rules and regulations as are necessary to administer the terms of this bylaw.”
This article would create a committee empowered to deal with town officials, departments, and private parties, including potential grant sources, on preservation options. As it stands right now, there is no formal, step-by-step process in Hanover by which threatened buildings are studied to determine whether adaptive reuse or outright preservation is an option.
What is the intended use of the building?
This article was not submitted to promote a particular use of the structure. It is intended to cast a wide net to solicit and explore potential uses.
Didn’t we already delay the demolition for a year for that purpose?
The motion on Article 28 that was presented to the voters at the 2011 Annual Town Meeting asked for approval for funds for demolition only. There was no process by which alternatives were explored, and no estimates for the repair of the building were presented in an organized fashion that allowed voters to properly choose options.
The Historical Commission’s vote in June to delay demolition set into motion the one-year period in which the building could not be torn down, but the town did not engage in any activities to further define those options.
Acting on its own, an ad hoc citizens group considered numerous ideas, including the potential for community meeting space, museum exhibits, art galleries, or use by other town departments. Several interested citizens proposed donating their time and expertise to create a business plan for the property, but without a formalized structure in place to bring those ideas to fruition, those resources have not been adequately tapped.
What could the building be used for?
There are many options. The town last requested proposals for the building approximately 10 years ago. There has been no formal RFP since, and no activity within the one-year time frame established by the demolition delay bylaw.
Even the town’s own studies and departments conflict on how the property should be used. For example, The 2007 Park & Recreation Commission Master Plan for the Gallant Field property contains a drawing in which the Curtis School building is not present, however, it is not clear that the Park & Recreation Commission has been formally asked to consider whether utilizing the building would fit into its plans.
The 2010 Municipal Facilities Assessment (DRA Report) suggests that the frame of the building be used for a fire station – notably, a recommendation that could not be accomplished if the building were demolished:
“Based upon evaluation of this building, and upon consideration of the various needs expressed by members of the community and the Town administration, our recommendation to salvage only the basic exterior historic envelope of this building, to the extent possible, and to restructure, redesign, and reconstruct the building to serve as a satellite fire station serving the north end of town.”
Prior to undertaking this work, a program of stabilization of the current structure needs to be put into action, in order to prevent further deterioration. And a design project should be undertaken, to study the feasibility of re-use in more depth, including a program for the proposed satellite fire station, schematic designs, and cost estimates.”
The Town ofHanoverhas committed itself to historic preservation, as evidenced in this goal in the 2008 Master Plan: “Utilize Community Preservation Funds, outside grants and funding sources to purchase preservation restrictions on homes and buildings of irreplaceable historic or scenic value.”
How will this article accomplish the stated goal?
If this article is approved, the vote to demolish will be reversed, and a Task Force established to conduct a formal study of all options, including:
– Surveying town departments for potential uses
– Holding public meetings to determine public interest
– Collecting historical data on the property for the town’s records
– Exploring funding sources, including private grants, public resources, and Community Preservation Act money, for any needed structural studies and restoration projects
– Communicating with the abutters on the options for the building
– Issuing a report and recommendations no later than the next annual town meeting