2022, Historic District Commission, Town Agendas & Minutes|


OCTOBER 5, 2022

Mr. Kurt Smith, Chair, called the Historic District Commission meeting to order at 4:00 p.m.   In attendance were Commission Members Barbara Brown, David Holman, Michael McDowell, Rebecca Murphy and Victoria Smith, Jennifer McCann (Town Clerk) and guests.

Mr. Smith stated that the Chestertown Historic District Commission takes its authority from Chapter 93 of the Code of the Town of Chestertown and operates under the Historic District Design Guidelines that were adopted by the Mayor and Council of Chestertown on October 7, 2002, and revised March 7, 2012.

Mr. Smith asked if there were any questions or changes regarding the agenda.  Ms. Murphy moved to accept the agenda as submitted, was seconded by Mr. McDowell and carried unanimously.

Mr. Smith asked if there were any questions, comments or additions to the minutes of the meeting of September 7, 2022.  Ms. Smith moved to approve the minutes as presented, was seconded by Ms. Murphy and carried unanimously.

The items on the consent agenda were as follows:
a. BP2022-129 – Sambor Investments, 100 Philosopher’s Terrace (aka 205 Spring Street) – Awning;
b. BP2022-130 – Richardson Fresh Ponds, 332 Cannon Street – Storm Door;
c. BP2022-132 – Damon, 233 Kent Street – Roof;

Ms. Murphy moved to approve the following as presented. 
a. BP2022-129 – Sambor Investments, 100 Philosopher’s Terrace (aka 205 Spring Street) – Awning;
b.  BP2022-130 – Richardson Fresh Ponds, 332 Cannon Street – Storm Door;
c.  BP2022-132 – Damon, 233 Kent Street – Roof;
The motion was seconded by Ms. Brown and carried with five in favor, Mr. Holman recused. 

 The next item on the agenda was BP2022-115 from Pam White at 222 S. Water (Front) Street for modification of an approved solar array on new construction.  Ms. Pam White was present for the application.  There were photographs that had been added to the file indicating where the panels would be visible from the public way.  The architectural shingles will be black as will the solar panels.  Ms. Murphy moved to approve BP2022-115 for a solar array as submitted, was seconded by Ms. Brown and carried unanimously.

The next item on the agenda was BP2022-134 from Jones & Jones Properties, LLC for exterior renovations at 105 High Street.  Ms. Kathleen Jones was present for the application.  Ms. Jones stated that the asbestos siding would be removed, and they were hoping the wood clapboard siding underneath was in decent shape.  Other modifications were in keeping with the Design Guidelines as original material was either being restored or replaced in kind.  They may add storm windows if they felt it was necessary.  Ms. Murphy moved to approve the application as submitted, was seconded by Ms. Brown and carried unanimously.

The last item on the agenda was from Washington College to request permission for demolition of the Armory building located at 509 S. Cross Street.  Dr. Michael Sosulski (president), Dr. John Seidel, Ed Patrick, Stan Yeakel and Richard Grieb were present from Washington College on behalf of the application.

Dr. Sosulski stated that he was not happy to come before the Commission with this request but there was strong mutual benefit for the Town and the College if permission for demolition was granted. He said that the College is committed to commemorating the legacy, use, and history of the Chestertown Armory.

Dr. Sosulski stated that after demolition, with an external partner, there would be the creation of a small hotel and conference center built to be used as part of the curriculum at the College and also for public use.  It will employ people in town and add an amenity that the community needs.  He said that the College was initially hoping for an adaptive reuse but that was not likely to be the case due to the deteriorated condition of the Armory.

Dr. Seidel stated that he was a preservationist, but the condition of this building made it so that it had to be demolished.  He said that in 2008 the properties were divested by the State and Chestertown and Kent County declined to make an offer of purchase.  From 2007 to 2011 there was an upswelling by the community to try to save the Armory but there were no investors that came forward to see the project through.  In 2012 the Armory was purchased by the College after it was brought into the Historic District as an outlier in order to make sure that there was local control over what would happen on the property.  At that time, it was understood and approved by the Historic District Commission that the rear building additions would be demolished, with the idea that the 1930s core would be retained.

Dr. Seidel stated that since the time the College purchased the Armory they have been reviewing uses for the building.  He said that it would cost an estimated $4 million to stabilize the building in its current condition and an additional $7 to $8 million to renovate the core.   He said that Herschel Development Company is the first to come forward with a viable plan to demo the rear portions and rehab the core as a grand entry and ballroom/meeting space and then Covid put everything on hold.  He said that in August 2022, environmental studies were performed, the findings of which were disappointing. There are lead and asbestos issues (which they knew), high humidity levels, standing water, and mold infiltration of the entire structure.  This requires complete replacement of all contents within the structure, and they were told that there was no guarantee that the mold will not resurface after a remediation, as it has permeated the entirety of the structure.

Dr. Seidel stated that this building was in disrepair when the College acquired it and over the past two-years, the conditions have worsened. He said that no investor will invest in this building knowing that there could be the resurfacing of mold even after remediation.

Dr. Seidel stated that historic materials will be saved and retained, and new spaces will be used for the future conference and meeting spaces, which will be available for a variety of uses and meetings for groups.

Mr. Yeakel stated that he was in the building last week and there are a number of issues with the building and visible mold in the lower areas.  There are certain areas that you cannot enter without PPE.

Ms. Murphy stated that she understood this is a Brownfield site.  Dr. Seidel stated that Washington College had 2 nearby Brownfield sites where remediation was performed. He said that he understood that the State has done most or all of the cleanup on the Armory site before the College purchased it.  A Phase 2 study was performed on the building and the site is clean from leeching of oil from the nearby former Alger Oil property.

Mr. McDowell asked the timeline and cost for the planned hotel.  Mr. Grieb stated that a feasibility study was performed for the College by a group of volunteers who donated their time and money, and it was a $30 million project.  The great unknown was how it would be built, and it will not happen if the demolition permit is not granted.

Mr. Grieb stated that the ground leasing would be run by a partnership and then the work would begin.  Ms. Murphy asked what would happen if the partners did not get the financing that is needed.

Mr. Smith stated that it was his understanding that the land and building will remain in the ownership of Washington College with leasing through a management company.  Ms. Murphy asked whether local organizations would be able to use the facility at a low and/or reduced rate.  Mr. Grieb stated that was the intention.

Mr. Smith stated that the plans for rebuilding would have to go before the Commission.  Ms. Brown asked if assurances will be put in place before they were given permission to demolish the building.  Dr. Seidel stated that Siemens Griswold met the living buildings challenge, and he thought that the hospitality group was heading in the same direction on design where the building would blend into the environment around it.  Ms. Brown stated that there should be a nod to the design of the Armory building.

Dr. Seidel stated that sheathing and temporary HVAC would be installed during the demolition process so that the mold would not leave the site.

Mr. Smith asked if any other government bodies such as the Maryland Historical Trust have heard the plans for demolition.  Dr. Seidel stated that the Historic District Commission and the Town of Chestertown have the authority to permit the demolition.

Ms. Murphy moved to approve demolition as requested of the Armory building located at 509 S. Cross Street, was seconded by Ms. Brown and carried unanimously. 

There being no further business, Mr. McDowell moved to adjourn the meeting at 4:51 p.m., was seconded by Ms. Murphy and carried unanimously.

Submitted by:                                                                                     Approved by:
Jennifer McCann, Town Clerk                                                           Kurt Smith, Chair

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