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Progress made on Lachat property plans

Lachat farmhouse

Plans are underway to renovate the Lachat farmhouse.

The Lachat Oversight Committee has created a Master Planning Draft and has started to tackle the more than 50 items on its approximately four-year “to do list.”

The committee went before the Board of Selectmen at the beginning of the month to talk about its accomplishments since the committee’s formation almost a year ago, as well as its plans for the future.

The historic farmhouse on the property off Godfrey Road West, which was deeded to both the town and the Nature Conservancy, had fallen into such disrepair that in the summer of 2011, the Board of Selectmen began discussing the possibility of demolishing the crumbling building, fearing it could pose a public nuisance.

A Friends of Lachat group — spearheaded by Carol Baldwin — formed at that time to raise money to save the farmhouse.

The town agreed to stabilize the farmhouse using a portion of the money raised by the Friends of Lachat.

Since then work has been done to shore up the foundation and wall and floor supports, damp-proof outer stone walls, and replace some basement windows.

In addition, the town created the Lachat Oversight Committee after entering into a dual lease agreement with the Nature Conservancy. The town is now responsible for the meadow front portion of the property, including the buildings, and the conservancy oversees the wooded area next to its Devil’s Den Preserve.

Ellen McCormick, chairman of the oversight committee, Ms. Baldwin, who, as well as heading the Friends of Lachat, is on the committee, and other committee members told the selectmen about their progress so far.

Selectman David Muller listens as Ellen McCormick, chairman of the Lachat Oversight Committee, talks about the many projects the committee has started to tackle. —Kimberly Donnelly photo

Selectman David Muller listens as Ellen McCormick, chairman of the Lachat Oversight Committee, talks about the many projects the committee has started to tackle. —Kimberly Donnelly photo

Ms. Baldwin said now that the first repairs on the farmhouse have been completed, the next most urgent needs identified by architect Bob Hatch are replacing the roof and restoring the back portion of the house.

The roof costs are estimated to be about $27,000 and the restoration work will be about $60,000 she said.

The selectmen agreed they would discuss at their next meeting the possibility of funding the roof replacement using a maintenance fund that already exists for the Lachat property.

Ms. Baldwin said the Friends of Lachat has approximately $88,000 in donations, and plans to use some of that for the back restoration work, if it is approved. Ms. Baldwin is also in the process of writing some grant applications, but, Ms. McCormick noted, many of those will consider only projects that are already under way.

Looking ahead

The committee showed the board its Master Planning Draft, an extensive spreadsheet — now available on the town website, westonct.gov —that breaks down the various projects the committee would like to tackle in regard to the rest of the Lachat land. These focus on offering “farming and environmental educational experiences for all ages, [and] community-building opportunities,” in accordance with the committee’s mission statement.

The plan is broken down into three phases, with the first expected to last about two years.

The first phase contains 28 proposed projects, many of which the committee will work on simultaneously. The planning draft details for each project the location, function, work needed, who will do it, materials needed, time frame, rationale, details, cost estimates, and funding source.

Proposed projects in Phase One include:

• Temporary fencing for several acres of the field.

• Creating a community garden.

• Irrigation.

• Hedging.

• Creating an expanded parking area.

• Planting various berries and vegetables for pick-your-own purposes.

• Building a temporary housing space for a resident farmer.

• Building a chicken coop.

• Developing a community-supported agricultural program (CSA) and an internship program, and after-school farm clubs.

• Creating a children’s garden, an historic herb kitchen garden, and flower gardens.

• Ongoing restoration of the farmhouse.

Other projects in the first phase include a farm stand, composting, art classes, beehives, hoop houses, tree planting, barn cleanup, signage, and holiday events.

Next steps

The selectmen praised the committee for the vast amount of work its members have already done and for the “level of detail” the plan includes.

“You have come leaps and bounds and made great progress,” Selectman David Muller said.

Selectman Dennis Tracey said the breadth of the ideas they have come up with is impressive. The hard part, he said, is going to be to “focus on a few priorities and start getting them done.”

Ms. Baldwin agreed, saying that is why the committee has broken down the many ideas into phases.

First Selectman Gayle Weinstein said the next step is to get Planning and Zoning approval. For that, the committee will need to come up with initial conceptual drawings and some cost estimates.

Then more formal plans will be needed, including an A-2 survey, Ms. Weinstein said. P&Z will hold public hearings and vote on any plans.

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