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To The Editor:
We are writing to take issue with your November 29 issue headline, ‘Rehabbing church more costly than building new,’ in reference, of course, to the debate about the location of the new town offices in Waitsfield. We thought it seemed somewhat weighted to one side of the issue.
In terms of the specific financial cost comparison for building new versus restoration of the old Methodist church, perhaps the Task Force was correct in concluding that new construction could possibly be a bit cheaper. Before one says just how much, however, we would have to know, was the church estimate made by a professional in the field of historic restoration or an engineer? Were all possible preservation grants, tax credits, State Downtown Programs, etc. factored in? And the “new building” – what type of building are we really talking about for this prominent spot in the Waitsfield National Historic District? Are we talking about a classic, beautiful, high-quality municipal building, which can be expensive indeed, or a new building like the many other ill-conceived “new buildings” stretched along Route 100?
But this letter is not about dollar building costs. The question at hand, when discussing “more costly” should be, what would be more costly in the long run, if we do not take advantage of this unique opportunity to save and rehabilitate a major historic public building in the heart of Waitsfield’s historic village (before it further deteriorates)? We can reinforce historic settlement patterns, embracing the historic rural character of our built environment, while creating a visual and cultural focal point, rather than continuing and encouraging the sprawl that started in the 1970s. We can encourage pedestrian traffic, as well, while calming vehicle traffic and further energize our real village center.
The carefully crafted Waitsfield Town Plan clearly states as its Historic and Cultural Resource Goal: “To identify, protect, and preserve Waitsfield’s cultural landscape and resources, including its traditional settlement pattern, historic built environment, and scenic features.” To succeed in this goal, we must resist sprawl and maintain the historic fabric of the village by finding appropriate uses and funding for the preservation of the anchor elements – our important public buildings would top that list.
Gregory and Carolynn Schipa