Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Historic landmark designation for the former Nike Missile Radar Site on Bayberry Lane has been put on hold until the Westport Historic District Commission (HDC) comes up with a revised plan for the former Cold War relic.
That was the consensus of a 13 to 10 vote by the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) tonight after the HDC met resistance from RTM members concerned that historic status would hamstring the town from using the 8.25-acre property for future community needs.
The site at 180 Bayberry Lane currently is home to the Westport Weston Health District, the Westport Astronomical Society, and the town’s brush dump. In the 1950s it housed a Nike missile complex protecting munitions-related factories in Bridgeport.
Selectwoman Helen Garten put forth the motion for historic designation calling the Nike site “an iconic Cold War symbol,” despite the fact the cinder block buildings are not considered “beautiful historic monuments.”
In May, the State Historic Preservation Office’s Historic Preservation Council recommended the site, and the Golden Shadows mansion on the town-owned Baron’s South, as historic properties. (See WestportNow May 4, 2016)
Daniel Mackay, executive director of the CT Trust for Historic Preservation, was among those urging RTM approval tonight of the proposed designation.
RTM member Jay Keenan, an architect, was the first to oppose the designation, saying that historic status would take away options for future use should the need arise.
“This is eight acres of real property that we own, and if we designate it, we will never get it back,” he said.
Other objections followed, with RTM member Jimmy Izzo saying the legislative body had a responsibility to taxpayers first and should not surrender a valuable town asset. Others followed, arguing that the property worth at least $6 million should not be tied up.
“It’s not like going to Rome and looking at the Colosseum,” said RTM member Carla Rea, who suggested that a plaque on one of the buildings would be more fitting.
“No plan, no thank you,” said RTM member Jack Klinge.
RTM member Melissa Kane made the motion to amend the original proposal, which passed, and which, under state law, must now go back to the HDC for another report.
She suggested the HDC propose two-plus acres for historic status, leaving the rest for the town to use at it sees fit.
After a lot of back and forth and confusion as to what a vote on the amendment would entail, the legislative body voted to send it back to the HDC to be reworked.
The commission has 65 days to bring it back to the RTM. Otherwise, it has to wait until a new RTM takes office after the November 2017 elections to bring back the proposal in the original form.
Posted 07/19/16 at 10:50 PM Permalink