Selectmen back change to facilitate move of Kemper Gunn House
Updated 4:14 pm, Wednesday, March 12, 2014
A proposed amendment to the town's Plan of Conservation and Development, needed to relocate the historic Kemper Gunn House to a new downtown site, was unanimously approved Wednesday by the Board of Selectmen.
Plans are to relocate the circa-1885 Queen Anne-style house from 35 Church Lane to the town-owned Baldwin Parking Lot on Elm Street. The house being moved to make way for the Bedford Square multi-use commercial project.
"We are not talking about the Gunn House, but simply to amend the plan (of Conservation and Development)," said Selectman Avi Kaner after reading the agenda item.
A similar amendment to the plan as made "only once in 2007" and that was to re-zone a septic company's property from a residential classification to business use, said Laurence Bradley, the town's planning and zoning director. So "there is a precedent," he said.
"I think this isn't required," Don Bergmann, a member of the Representative Town Meeting and the Downtown Steering Committee, said of the proposed amendment. "I don't think this is necessary for this project to go ahead, but I support it."
"I also support this modification," said Kaner. "This is a way to preserve a historic structure."
He referred to an approval granted earlier in Wednesday's meeting to accept the gift of a mural of "Saugatuck in the Nineteenth Century," valued at $25,000, from TD Bank. He noted that the mural depicts structures in the Saugatuck area that aren't there any longer.
"I feel confident with this plan (to relocate the structure) and excited that the plan is progressing," added Selectman Helen Garten.
The commission had rejected the proposal to relocate the historic house, virtually ensuring it would be demolished to make way for the Bedford Square project, scheduled to begin construction on the site of the Westport Weston Family Y later this year.
Besides the RTM's support for moving the house to the town parking lot, about 600 residents signed petitions backing the relocation plan and many gave impassioned pleas to preserve the structure during the RTM meeting.
The proposed amendment will next be considered by the P&Z in April.