The Village of Thomaston will either approve or modify a recommendation from the Landmarks Preservation Commission that would grant the Tower Ford building on 124 S. Middle Neck Road landmark status on Feb. 24.
Trustees passed the resolution to hold the meeting to decide the building’s fate during Monday night’s public meeting. Last week, the Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously determined that the structure should be preserved after strong community support to preserve it and prevent overdevelopment from potentially harming residents’ quality of life.
The state’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation declared the site eligible to be considered as a historic place on Oct. 29.
Commission Chairman Donald Stern said landmarking the structure could potentially raise costs for the owner in maintaining, repurposing and redeveloping it along with a potential reduction in its assessed value.
The building has been a hot-button issue since July, when initial plans were submitted, and subsequently withdrawn, to develop a five-story apartment complex on the property. During the commission’s Jan. 4 meeting, peninsula residents, historical experts and the village’s hired consultant, Archeology Historic Resource Services, made presentations contending that the building deserves the village’s landmark designation.
Jason Flatt of Archeology Historic Resource Services said the research his group carried out concluded that the building satisfies the village’s definition of a landmark and maintains a “very high degree of integrity.”
Anne Walker, an architectural historian and preservationist, spoke on the building’s Tudor Revival Style architecture that is similar to other structures throughout the Great Neck peninsula, of which some have been granted landmark status by the Village of Great Neck Plaza.
Stephen Limmer, the legal counsel for 124 Middle Neck Realty LLC, who put forward the plans to develop the five-story apartment, asked the commission during the meeting to adjourn the matter for 120 days so the applicant can “adequately make a presentation to protect its interests.”
Residents asked the panel not to grant Limmer’s request for the delay, saying everyone in the village was aware of the Jan. 4 meeting date when it was scheduled in late November. The commission ultimately decided not to grant the adjournment.
Limmer, in a follow-up letter sent to the village, again asked for the commission to adjourn the matter until May 1 so his client could come up with a multifamily dwelling project acceptable to the village, despite strong residential opposition. Limmer also said his client does not believe the building deserves to be granted landmark status.
“My client believes that there is no particular historic, aesthetic, or other aspects of the building for which it should be given landmark status thus unduly restricting its use and imposing unjustified added expense to its upkeep,” Limmer said in the letter.
In December, the village repealed a local zoning law that, along with the proposal, was met with strong opposition from the public. The law was passed during a July meeting and allowed the Board of Trustees to have “sole and unfettered discretion” on what conditions and incentive use permit may be granted to certain applicants. The law applied to applicants that have a property located partially in the Apartment B and Residence 10 zoning districts, a total area of at least 0.75 acres but not exceeding one acre, a depth at its greatest point of at least 200 feet and street frontage on Middle Neck Road of at least 230 feet.
The property at 124 S. Middle Neck Road, the former site of Tower Ford and the previously proposed apartment complex, lies partly in the Apartment B and Residence 10 zoning districts, has a total area of 0.96 acres, and has a depth of 234 feet, according to village documents.
The Feb. 24 meeting is scheduled to occur virtually via Zoom at 7:30 p.m.