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To The Editor:
The results of the Citizen Survey following the November 29, 2012, town office public forum were striking, nearly 3 to 1 in favor of the adaptive use of the 1894 Methodist Church. People voted in favor of the church for many reasons. Most impressive about those votes is what they tell us about our community sense of values.
Keeping business and civic use in a compact center, close to Bridge Street, is important. Business uses reinforce each other and are more convenient to find and use. Scattering those uses disrupts the residential quality of a village. While the Farm Stand site is eminently buildable, office functions and parking needs would drive a wedge between the existing residential uses. Residential use on that site would strengthen the neighborhood.
Waitsfield history is important. The purpose of the National Register of Historic Places is to recognize and help preserve those places that tell the history of the United States. Waitsfield is one of those places. In supporting the town’s use of the church, it is clear that many citizens value our architectural heritage.
With the present vacancies and mixed use of the church, adequate maintenance of the structure is a problem. The town can make good use of the interior space, both for current and future needs, and at the same time preserve a major historic structure.
A town office building tells people who we are. The church is a handsome and rather stately structure. It suggests a use that is more than a few shops and apartments and is of civic importance, and with its bell tower, it is a quickly recognized image.
The engineers tell us that the church has “good bones” – 3-by-6 studs and sturdy Vermont timbers. If it is sound, why not recycle it for a new and better use? Nothing could be more “green,” saving tons of natural resources, manufactured materials and transportation energy. It seems like the Vermont way – if it’s still good, why not reuse it?
Maclay Architects is a very competent firm and they practice in the middle of our historic district. Given a sound structure and an excellent location, they can make this adaptive use of a historic building functional, energy efficient and a wonderful place to meet and work.