The Village of Thomaston will retain an archaeological and historic preservation consultant to help determine whether the Tower Ford structure, the site of a potential development, meets the criteria for landmarking by the village’s preservation commission.
At a special board meeting on Dec. 1, the village trustees voted 5-0 to approve Archaeology & Historic Resource Services LLC — based in upstate Orange County — as a consultant to review the Tower Ford site and help the commission make a determination on landmark status. The estimated cost of the consultant will not exceed $6,000 and includes documentary research, a site visit, an analysis report and a public hearing. The findings are expected to be complete by Dec. 30, according to the proposal.
"I think having the input of an independent expert is absolutely essential," village trustee Burton Weston said at the meeting. "I think the expenditure is warranted and in fact in the best interest of the village and of the populous."
Last month, the application by 124 Middle Neck Realty LLC to demolish the 95-year-old Tower Ford structure, site of a former car dealership, to construct a five-story, 75-unit apartment building at the corner of South Middle Neck and Brompton roads was withdrawn. The plans were met with strong pushback from local residents, who cited concerns about parking, density and tax breaks.
The decision to withdraw the application came days after the New York State Historic Preservation Office released its opinion stating the "house meets the criteria" for listing to both the National and State Register of Historic Places. The building cannot be placed on the register without the owner’s consent, according to a letter sent by the preservation office.
Stephen Limmer, a Garden City-based lawyer with McLaughlin & Stern LLP who represents the applicant, has previously said the developers will wait until the village’s landmark commission makes a decision before proceeding with any revisions of the original plan.
Thomaston resident Wendy Halpern, who along with several other residents is pushing for the preservation of the structure, noted that the state has already said the building meets the criteria for listing on the state and national registers.
"Therefore it seems clear that this building meets the criteria under the village code and there is no need to hire outside consultants especially since we have local residents with expertise in this area," Halpern said.
She noted she has no objection to the firm the village picked and assumes they will be unbiased and fair. However, she expressed concerns about the Dec. 30 deadline as the holidays and the pandemic may play a factor.
Members of the commission include chairman Donald Stern, Gary Noren, Karen Siegel, Leila Mattson and Miriam Chatinover. The commission’s next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 4 at 7:30 p.m.