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Lachat committee is making progess

The work of the Select Committee for the Oversight of the Lachat Property is “coming along slowly, but it is coming along,” said the committee’s chairman, Ellen McCormick, earlier this week.

The committee has been having extra meetings to jump-start the process of restoring the farmhouse on the land and developing an overall vision for the property.

The land is co-owned by the town and the Nature Conservancy, but a dual lease agreement entered into last year gives the town control over what is done with the portion of the farm fronting on Godfrey Road — including the buildings — and the conservancy is responsible for land that abuts the Devil’s Den Nature Preserve.

Over the years, the Lachat farmhouse has fallen into disrepair.

About a year ago, the Board of Selectmen began discussing the possibility of demolishing the crumbling building, which used to belong to the late Leon Lachat, who ran one of the last working farms in town there.

A Friends of Lachat group 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.

The Lachat oversight committee was formed to come up with a long-range vision and plan for the town’s portion of Lachat.

The town has sent the farmhouse project out to bid twice. Both times, vastly disparate bids came back, which has delayed the start of the project.

But in the meantime, Ms. McCormick said, the oversight committee is moving forward with what it needs to do to comply with a planning grant it has received from the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation.

The matching grant gives the town $20,000 if the town agrees to put up an additional $20,000, Ms. McCormick said. It may be used to cover costs for landscape planning, architectural drawings and structural engineering plans for the farmhouse.

Ms. McCormick said the committee needs to report to the trust by Dec. 8 with proof that those three components are sufficiently in place in order to keep the grant.

She said the general vision for the house is to use the upstairs portion as a place for someone to live on site and to use the downstairs as a limited public space.

As far as the vision or a “master plan” for the property as a whole, the committee will work more specifically on that once the planning grant requirements have been met, Ms. McCormick said.

The committee will focus on “education, with an agricultural component,” Ms. McCormick said.

“A lot of the proposals that have come forward from the public [for the property] have had some variation of a farming or community garden component,” she said. “We are planning to try to stick to the wishes of Leon Lachat and what was in those agreements he made” with the town when he sold the property, as well as what is in subsequent conservation easements, she said.

Ms. McCormick said the committee welcomes input from the public and it plans to hold hearings and informational meetings, and to meet with potential users of the property like the Scouts and the Garden Club before finalizing a master plan.

The committee’s regular meetings are on the first Tuesday of every month at 7:30 p.m. in the Meeting Room at town hall. Notice of additional meetings — as well as all agendas and meeting minutes — are posted at town hall and online at westonct.gov.

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