State and federal agencies involved with clearing Danbury Hall and a set of former staff residences at Fairfield Hills for demolition have both provided the necessary documentation for the town to move forward with the project. Now the only thing standing between the buildings and the wrecking ball is a remediation plan being prepared by a town contractor, which is expected to be delivered within the next week or two.
First Selectman Pat Llodra said a letter received from Daniel T. Forrest, a State Historic Preservation officer, recommends that the Environmental Protection Agency develop a Memorandum of Agreement, in effect authorizing the demolition using grant funds from that federal agency to complete the work.
In his memo, Mr Forrest points out that the entire Fairfield Hills Campus appears to be eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
“As this office stated in a letter dated to you on July 29, 2013, it is our opinion that the demolition of nine buildings will have an adverse effect on the integrity of the historic former Fairfield Hills Campus, of which the subject buildings are elements,” Mr Forrest wrote. He added, however, that the state Historic Commission “is aware of the planning processes undertaken by the Town of Newtown subsequent to their acquisition of this property from the state, and we believe that there is no prudent alternative to the proposed demolition.”
The state authorization has come with a couple of strings attached, according to Mrs Llodra. According to his letter, Mr Forrest is recommending the following stipulations be included in the Memorandum of Agreement:
*Danbury Hall and a representative example of the worker housing be documented in accordance with the guidelines set forth by this office and two copies of the report shall be submitted to the State Historic Preservation Office. That documentation report should include a concise narrative history of the former Fairfield Hills Hospital and the historic context of large psychiatric institutions in Connecticut.
Mr Forrest further recommends that one of the two following stipulations be incorporated within the memorandum to support historic preservation efforts within Newtown:
*The Town of Newtown shall issue a RFP to invite developers to present proposals to rehabilitate and adaptively reuse at least one of the significant historic structures on the site, including but not limited to the Kent House, the Shelton House, the Canaan House, Plymouth Hall, and Stamford Hall in a manner consistent with the town’s current zoning regulations or with the expressed support of the town government for any required zoning changes.
*The Town shall complete a Historic Structures Report and Conditions Assessment consistent with SHPO standards for the Edmund Town Hall property located at 45 Main Street in the Town of Newtown.
“SHPO’s intent in this consultation is to support the preservation, when prudent and feasible, of the important historic buildings on the former hospital campus,” Mr Forrest concluded. “If there are no such options, we suggest that the mitigation efforts focus on preservation planning at alternate locations within the town, as recommended above.”
He closed reminding town officials that the SHPO stands ready to provide grants for a wide range of preservation planning and rehabilitation efforts.
“Such funding programs may assist in the potential reuse of buildings within the Fairfield Hills Campus and elsewhere in town,” the memo states. “SHPO encourages the town to take advantage of these programs to further your efforts to preserve Newtown’s unique and significant heritage resources.”
Mrs Llodra said that former Booth Library staffer Andrea Zimmermann has been engaged to produce the historic documentation on Danbury Hall and the residential homes set to be razed. The first selectman said that as soon as the town receives the remediation plan being developed by Environmental Consultant Kimberly Clarke of Eolas Environmental, LLC, the town will finalize a schedule for demolition.
Public Works Director Fred Hurley previously told The Bee that the town’s fire companies are hoping to use the residential homes on the northwestern edge of the campus for training drills, which will involve burning all or part of them, reducing the expense of the overall demolition plan.
Mrs Llodra said, if all goes as planned, the demolition will either be in progress, or possibly complete, by year’s end.