Wiscasset Historic Preservation Commission

Historic Preservation Commission prepares letter to MDOT

Honors Richard Thompson
Posted:  Wednesday, May 17, 2017 - 9:45am

The Wiscasset Historic Preservation Commission met Monday to finalize its letter to the Maine Department of Transportation over concerns about the downtown project.

Spurred by MDOT’s acquisition of the Haggett’s Garage building with plans to demolish it for a parking lot on Water Street, the commission wrote the letter reminding MDOT the commission is responsible for advising the town on all things related to historic preservation. The letter also stated the commission was responsible for looking at federal, state and municipal rules on historic preservation.

Member James Kochan was concerned that most preservation commissions are allowed to interact directly with any other body necessary to do their job. “Most commissions of this type have direct communication with state and federal entities,” he said.

The letter will be presented to the Board of Selectmen in early June.

Commission member Susan Blagden said the commission “is not obligated to follow state and local rules alone; we are pledged to protect our local historic resources, as well.” Blagden was somewhat concerned the Haggett’s Garage issue might overshadow the larger issue of local historic preservation. “We should not hang our hats on Haggett’s Garage alone, but the whole project,” she said.

“We discussed a certificate of appropriateness in the fall, but decided it would be addressed at the appropriate time. This is the appropriate time,” Kochan said. “With the eminent domain taking of the Haggett’s Garage and ... planned demolition of a historically significant building, this is the time.”

Town Planner Ben Averill said there is currently no plan to demolish the building, though he acknowledged that is in the plan. “But if a citizen were to come to me and ask about obtaining a certificate at this point in their project, I’d have to say that their application is incomplete.”

Chairman John Reinhardt was most concerned that MDOT be required to deal with the historic preservation of the downtown area as part of the ordinance. “It is a law,” he said. “For my house, for your house, we have to follow the rules. Why shouldn’t MDOT?”

In a separate issue, the Appeals Board received the appeal by Celeste Edwards for her fence at 4 Hill Street on May 17. Averill said a decision was expected in late May or early June, and if the commission had any additional role to play, it would be informed after the Appeals Board reached its decision.

Members also honored the memory of fellow member Richard Thompson. Thompson died suddenly earlier this month.

Reinhardt said Thompson was “an important and integral part of the Historic Preservation Commission.” Blagden, crying and voice breaking, said she had known Thompson for 45 years. “I’ve known him since he came here. We’ve lost a valuable friend to ourselves, and a valuable friend to our town.”