State law requires MHT and DHCD to consult on practicality of plans that preserve the Birely building

Have the state agencies involved in reviewing the plans for demolition of the Birely Tannery been following the law? Under the Maryland Historical Trust Act of 1985 as amended, Sections 5A-325 and 326, a capital project getting state funds must be assessed as to whether it has an ‘adverse effect’ on any historic property. Despite its name Maryland Historical Trust (MHT) is a branch of State government housed in the department of planning in Crownsville MD and its Director, Elizabeth Hughes also has the title State Historic Preservation Officer reflecting her statutory powers.

MHT made such an ‘adverse effect’ finding against the downtown Frederick hotel project in July this year. It was announced in a letter to the City’s Richard Griffin dated July 26, 2017. The key paragraph:

Assessment of Effects: We acknowledge that elements of the project will have a positive preservation outcome including the adaptive reuse of the News Post building and sensitive new construction within the (historic) district. Nonetheless, the (hotel and conference center) project will involve demolition of the Birely Tannery Building and the 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.”

(NOTE: the City has never released this letter and the Frederick News-Post has never reported the finding so it isn’t well known. It was published here:

http://frederickhotelboondoggle.us/2017/07/breaking-news-state-preservation-regulator-says-downtown-hotel-plan-has-adverse-effect-on-historic-district/  )

Following an ‘adverse effect’ finding like this the law at 5A-325 (d) (2) says that “the Director (of the Maryland Historical Trust) and the State unit — in this case the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) — shall consult to determine whether a practicable plan exists to avoid, mitigate or satisfactorily reduce the adverse effect.”

The phrase ’avoid… the adverse effect’ means in the case of the Birely Tannery avoiding demolition. Building around it, for example. Or downsizing the hotel project to reduce its footprint and the need to knock down the tannery building. Or buying the adjacent Eagles surface carpark lot and moving the conference center to a Patrick St frontage.

Have there been such MHT-DHCD consultations on the practicality of plans to avoid demolition?  They haven’t been reported. They are required by state law.

Here is the law referred to

http://mht.maryland.gov/documents/PDF/MHTAct5A325-326.pdf

2017-10-18

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