KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
POWNAL -- The state has rejected a request by the Select Board to remove the Bartels Lodge from the State Register of Historic Places.
An electronic copy of a communication sent by the Vermont Division of Historic Preservation was supplied to the Banner by a Pownal resident. The communication resembles a letter and is in .pdf format. It is addressed to "Stephen Kauppi, Pownal Board of Selectmen." It is dated Aug. 2. Kauppi is the chairman of the board.
At a board meeting Thursday, Eve Pearce, a resident, asked the board if it had received a letter from the division last week concerning the lodge's listing. Kauppi said the board had not received a letter, and clarified he had received an email from the division.
According to the communication, the Vermont Advisory Council on Historic Preservation met July 19 to discuss the board's request. A motion was to remove it received seven "no," votes, representing a unanimous decision.
Devin Colman, historic preservation review coordinator, said the only way a building can come off the list is if it loses its historical significance. He said that has not happened with the lodge.
The board made the request in May. Kauppi offered the motion, saying his reasoning was that he did not want town records to reflect that the board had demolished a historic building, should the board ever take such an action. He said he felt the board was not informed properly as a landowner when the Pownal Historical District was created in 2009. The district comprises most of Center Street, including the Town Offices and the lodge.
Colman said the committee discussed the issue of how the lodge became registered. He said the committee was satisfied that property owners, including the town, had received ample notification of the listing.
The lodge itself is a town-owned building, bought in 2006 with the idea it would be used as a new town office. Debates over what to do with the property have gone on since then, with those heating up in the last year. It began with Kauppi pushing for something to be done with the lodge, which led to two contradictory ballot articles going before voters at Town Meeting day, one calling for the lodges removal, another its preservation. Both passed.
A citizen group has also indicated it might sue the town should it attempt to remove the lodge, and a complaint was made to Vermont State Police regarding Kauppi having taken boards from the building in 2006 under what he thought was the Select Board's official permission. Kauppi had said as much at town meeting, and has since confirmed police are investigating the matter.
The board has been advised by its attorney to not speak of the lodge outside executive session. Advocates for preserving the building wish the town to work with a non-profit that has a track record of restoring historic structures.
In a previous interview with the Banner, Colman said being on the registry does not mean the town can't renovate or demolish the building. Such an action might affect grant money, however, if the town sought state or federal funding, but the registry might not even affect that. He said a building can have historic significance whether registered or not.
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