Lenox Community Preservation Committee
December 8, 2014
In Attendance: Frederick Keator (Chair), Ed Lane (BOS), Tom Delasco (PB), Catherine May (LHA), Eugene Chague (At Large), Tony Patella (Community Center), Olga Weiss (At Large/LHS), Joe Strauch (Conservation Commission), Gwen Miller (Town Planner)
Guests: Steve Oaks, of 27 Housatonic LLC; Hilary Respass and Mike Cunningham of Boston University Tanglewood Institute (BUTI); Ventfort Hall; Lenox Town Manager Chris Ketchen
The Lenox Community Preservation Committee (CPC) met on Monday, December 8 to hear community proposals for the FY 2016 community preservation committee grand award cycle. As such, there was no formal agenda. This meeting was an opportunity for interested parties to present their initial funding proposal and gather input or feedback from the committee prior to submitting the formal application due December 31, 2014.
The meeting commenced at 7:00 p.m. and adjourned at 8:40 p.m.
The CPC Chair Frederick Keator started the meeting by introducing the new Land Use Director/Town Planner in Lenox, Gwen Miller. Gwen introduced herself and explained that she will be staffing the CPC going forward. Through the meeting, CPC members introduced themselves to both Ms. Miller and the parties interested in obtaining CPC funds.
Ms. Weiss asked Mr. Keator if there was an agenda for the evening’s meeting. FK responded that there was not, as the goal of the meeting was to informally listen to community members’ ideas or proposals, to ask questions of community members and to provide input or feedback regarding initial proposals.
Preliminary Proposal Discussions
The committee listened to five preliminary proposals:
- 27 Housatonic LLC, Mr. Steve Oakes (Manager)
Mr. Oakes described the historic restoration work he and his wife have undertaken on the 27 Housatonic Street property, formerly the county courthouse and Lenox town hall. Mr. Oakes and his wife have carefully worked to restore the property and have received a Certificate of Appropriateness from the Historic District Commission. As a final touch to the project, they wish to add a historically accurate replica of the building’s original cupola. Mr. Oakes requests $70,000 in Historic Restoration funds to do so, and stated that the public benefit of the project is the aesthetic impact of the cupola on the village sky line and the visual impact within the historic district.
- Mr. Oakes stated that without CPC funding, it would be difficult to complete the cupola project, but would draw on other family sources to fund its completion. He had hoped to complete the project for the 2015 summer season.
- Mr. Patella indicated to Mr. Oakes that the CPC could condition a lien with funding, so as to protect the town from a loss of funding if Mr. Oakes should ever sell the property.
- Mr. Oakes was commended for his dedication to the historic restoration of 27 Housatonic Street.
- It was recommended that Mr. Oakes submit a formal application.
- Boston University Tanglewood Institute, Ms. Hilary Respass and Mike Cunningham
Ms. Respass, Executive Director of BUTI, and Mr. Cunningham, Facilities Manager at BUTI, presented a preliminary pitch to use CPC funds to help BUTI assess and repair the Groton Mansion on the BUTI Windsor Mountain campus. Ms. Respass noted the history of BUTI’s involvement at the campus, and also noted that the campus provides walking, soccer fields and practice for the Lenox fire department when BUTI is not using it.
- Ms. Respass described the BUTI vision for year-round use of the Windsor Mountain campus and Groton Mansion, noting the copious repairs needed to the mansion itself.
- Mr. Cunningham noted specifically the masonry, slate roof and flat membrane roof and the library.
- BUTI was asked to describe its future direction: would investment be made into property only to have BUTI sell the property? Ms. Respass stated that the desire is to stay at the property; but she did want to manage expectations.
- BUTI was asked what type of support BUTI receives from its 9,000 member alumni community. Ms. Respass indicated emotional & financial support and that BUTI recently hired a full-time development director. Ms. May and Ms. Weiss encouraged them to pursue the distinguished clientele of Windsor Mountain.
- BUTI was asked if they would prepare a comprehensive plan for the campus. They were also asked if there was a plan to prioritize repair needs. The roof was identified.
- BUTI was encouraged to submit an application, but with specific project priorities and costs identified.
Development and marketing staff, Rachel Coll and Linda Rocke from Ventfort Hall proposed to request Historic Restoration funds from CPC to help conduct and complete a 5-phase plan, including an Architectural and Structural Survey for Ventfort Hall. This would result in a prioritized list of the historic restoration work needed at Ventfort Hall, and would also assist the organization in applying for state or other grant funds to bring the building completely up to code and accessibility standards. CPC funds would be used in conjunction with funds from the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities fund as well as other potential state programs. They request $30,000 from CPC to assist in funding the first two phases of their 5-phase plan.
- Ms. Coll described the work Ventfort Hall is conducting to bring the building up to code and up to accessibility standards, noting that in the past, the approach has been “by the skin of their teeth”, without a clear plan or project prioritization. CPC funds would be leveraged w/ other grant awards to a study with a final report scoping out projects and prioritizations. The applicants indicated a clear timeline, largely contingent on state grant award notifications, and also described the efforts of Ventfort Hall to obtain funds from their Capital Campaign and donor contributions.
- Ms. Weiss told Ventfort Hall that CPC appreciates their efforts to shift toward a proactive approach like the Mount versus a reactive approach to maintenance and repair.
- FK put the question to Ms. Weiss if the study would be fundable through CPC. It was indicated that it would be.
- TD also asked for an update on accessibility variance. Ventfort Hall indicated that they were getting a variance.
- Town of Lenox, Town Manager Chris Ketchen
Town Manager Chris Ketchen indicated that Lenox would likely submit funding requests for two projects:
- The Academy Building: historic restoration
- Lenox Town Beach: recreation
He also provided a brief update regarding the Community Center, and told the CPC that the sod would be laid and basketball courts refinished this coming spring.
- Historic Commission, Olga Weiss
CPC member Olga Weiss indicated that the Lenox Historical Commission is planning to submit a request for funds to complete the historic restoration work at the Church on the Hill cemetery. She also thought that a project may be presented to help the LHC work with social media; Mr. Patella indicated that a previous discussion amongst CPC and staff had determined that social media or education did not qualify for historic restoration funds.
Key Points of Discussion
- The Funding of Plans or Studies
In response to BUTI’s preliminary proposal, the CPC initially indicated that it would be unable to fund any type of plan or study for the program to prioritize needed facility repairs. However, in the Ventfort Hall discussion, a CPC member indicated that the CPC likes to see planning or study efforts from applicants. Discussion ensued as FK requested that the CPC stay consistent, and noted that the BUTI team had just been told that they a plan or study was not an ideal project for a funding request. This was also noted by BUTI’s facility manager, Mr. Cunningham. The CPC resolved that plans or studies are acceptable and this was made clear to both BUTI and Ventfort Hall.
FK explained the future timeline for decision-making and fund approval to the attendees. He explained that they would accept final applications until 1:00 p.m., December 31st, 2014. Upon receipt of the applications, the committee will meet to review and discuss submittals. This would precede a formal public hearing.
The CPC will make recommendations to the Select board for Town Meeting warrant items.
The FY16 funds would not be made available to applicants until July 1st, 2015.
CPC scheduled two (2) meetings in January for review and discussion of final applications:
- Monday, January 19th @ 6:00 p.m. (this date was later revised to January 12, though the 6:00 time was kept and posted)
- Monday, January 26th @ 7:00 p.m.