Questions delay survey of Golden Shadow’s historic status
Published 12:15 pm, Wednesday, August 12, 2015
The Board of Selectmen on Wednesday tabled a motion to hire a consultant to prepare reports on eligibility for historic designations of two town-owned properties: the Golden Shadows mansion at 68 Compo Road South and the former Nike missile radar site on Bayberry Lane.
The studies would be financed with a $5,000 grant, said Carol Leahy of the Historic District Commission. She said Historic Perspectives, a consulting firm that would study both properties, is managed by CeCe Saunders, a Westport resident.
Leahy said the firm is a “wonderful resource and will provide an excellent report.” She also noted that Saunders was unable to attend the meeting, but felt she could answer any questions that arose.
While there was no problem concerning a study of the former Nike site, where radar towers would remain the focus, there were questions and discussion about the scope and focus of the report for Golden Shadows — in particular, if it would include any accessory buildings on the Baron’s South property and what the boundaries would be.
The selectmen agreed that since those issues were unclear that it would be best to table the matter until their September meeting.
Prior to that decision, Selectman Avi Kaner said he was prepared to vote against the motion, saying he felt the timing wasn’t right.
Kaner expressed concern that a historic designation for Golden Shadows might impose restrictions, adding it would “preclude us from what we or future boards would want to do.”
But Leahy said it didn’t appear a historic designation would restrict the town in planning future use of the mansion. “We don’t want it to be a confrontational situation,” she said.
Kaner also said it was “premature” to conduct the study since the town still has to discuss what to do with the entire 23-acre Baron’s South property, which the Planning and Zoning Commission recently designated as open space.
Kaner later said he wasn’t against the concept of the report, just the timing, especially with this week’s hiring of a new parks and recreation director, who would be involved in determining the future use of the Baron’s South property. “It should be done in the context of all of the Baron’s South property and not just this house,” he said.
Kaner said that, since the study grant is good until next May, “can’t we do it in April?”
Golden Shadows, a two-story mansion, was built in the late 1950s as the home of the perfume magnate Baron Langer von Langerdorff, located on property between South Compo Road and Imperial Avenue. Most recently, the 4,250-square-foot structure was used by the Westport Library to store books.
First Selectman Jim Marpe noted the historic designation “doesn’t preclude other uses.” He added the report will allude to other buildings and other portions of the property, but the focus will be on” Golden Shadows.
Selectman Helen Garten said the study will provide the Representative Town Meeting with information needed to make an informed decision since it’s the RTM that will decide if the mansion would formally be given that designation.
Garten also said that what Leahy stated at the meeting concerning the study’s scope for Golden Shadows appeared to be “different than what I understood in the interviews” with Historic Perspectives.
Marpe said Saunders needs to be on hand o clear up the issues raised and suggested postponing any vote until the next selectmen’s meeting. He said there was “just enough confusion” to table the matter.
“It’s best to take a pause,” Marpe said.
“I’m very disappointed with this delay,” said Don Bergmann, a member of the HDC subcommittee overseeing the designation studies. “It’s very unnecessary.”
Historical Perspectives Inc., according to its website, is a women-owned cultural resources consulting firm offering a variety of archaeological and historic structures services, including archival research and archaeological reconnaissance surveys ...”
HPI has been in business since 1982 and has completed more than 800 projects.