Hotel promoters off to bad start at historic commission – 7/0 vote that Birely & site ‘contributing’ and ‘of unusual importance’

Promoters of the downtown conference center hotel got off to a bad start at the first hearing of hotel applications at the Historic Preservation Commission. Despite an appearance by the Mayor Randy McClement, landowner Myron Randall, and hotel developer Pete Plamondon, together with the Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Partnership and East St Rising and others, the Commission voted seven to zero on case HPC17-490 that the Birely Tannery and the larger archeological site are a ’contributing resource of unusual importance.’

Hotel supporters never really addressed the issue being voted on, beyond vague repetitions of arguments that the hotel project is of great importance to the City and its future. A few proponents ran down the Tannery building as of no further historic value because of changes to its setting with the building left a story below the elevation of the Carroll Creek promenades.

Support for designation of the Tannery and the site as ‘contributing’ (to the historic district) of ‘unusual importance’ was led by Anthony Moscato, chairman of the Frederick Preservation Trust, Mary Mannix, the Trust president and others.

After some discussion Commissioner Carrie Albee moved the motion, seconded by vice-chair Michael Parnes, to designate the property and site contributing & of unusual importance raising a high bar against demolition, and likely requiring a major new archeological study.

By contrast HPC17-489, the application for demolition of the 1960s south-end addition to the old Frederick News Post building went smoothly. It was borderline ‘old’ based on the 50 year rule on measuring the ‘period of significance’ and the staff report recommended OKing its demo. Carrie Albee was the dissenter, saying she thought it was contributing because it was part of the history that made it a newspaper building. She was the one dissenting vote with six who OK’d the application.

At a Workshop 10:15 to 11pm Peter Fillat the architect-in-charge made a presentation  with slides. He was pressed by Commissioners to explain what had been tried in order to save the Birely. He answered that the Birely was “right in the center” of the building lot and was no way of avoiding removing it within other constraints.

Commissioners were far from persuaded. Albee said that there seemed lots of surface space for vehicular movement and for parking. Pete Plamondon said the City had pressed for more parking so the design was partly driven by that.

The next workshop is July 27th.

2017.07.13 late

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