State preservation regulator says downtown hotel plan has ‘adverse effect’ on historic district

Elizabeth Hughes, State Historic Preservation Officer (Hughes) has this week issued an ‘adverse effect’ finding on the plans of the proposed  downtown hotel and conference center (DH&CC.) This means that there is now a hold on state funds being drawn for the project.

Hughes who is also director of the Maryland Historical Trust makes the formal finding in a 4-page letter to City hotel project manager Richard Griffin dated July 26. Major sticking points are the proposed demolition of the Birely Tannery, the archeological site, and compatibility with neighboring buildings and the streetscape of the downtown historic district.

Key passage in the Hughes letter: “We acknowledge that elements of

Elizabeth Hughes, director Maryland Historical Trust

the project will have a positive preservation outcome including adaptive re-use of the News-Post building and some sensitive new construction within the district. Nonetheless the project will involve the demolition of the historic Birely Tannery Building and remaining sections of the Birely Tannery Archeological Site. Thus, it is our determination that the project will have an adverse effect (italicized in the original) on historic and archeological properties.”

The finding does not close off the opportunity for future compromise. It says under the heading ‘Next Steps’ that there needs to be a ‘resolution of adverse effects’ through consultation with other consulting parties (Frederick Preservation Trust is the most prominent) and the public to “review alternatives” to demolition. If the project cannot avoid the Tannery and archeological site then the parties must agree on a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) on measures, and process by which the project can proceed to implement ‘mitigation measures.’

2017.07.28

So far all we have is a mailed letter that is rain-sodden — see below. We’ve requested a pdf and will post that here when we get it.

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