A recommendation by a state historian means Waterford will have to wait until November 16th before it can acquire money to knock down Cohanzie School, and then if it does knock down the building, it must build an exhibit honoring the school’s history.
In March, Waterford acquired to knock down Cohanzie School and remediate the land. In June, Municipal Historian and Town Clerk Robert Nye had Cohanzie School put on the state’s historical register, meaning the state now considers knocking down the building a “significant environmental impact.”
To offset that impact, Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer Dan Forrest is asking Waterford to wait until November 16 to allow for a “feasible development proposal to be submitted to the Town that would preserve the primary historic features of the original 1924 building,” according to a letter Forrest wrote. After that date, if no such application is submitted, Forrest asked the town prepare a “state-level photographic and narrative documentation of the Cohanzie School” and build an “interpretive exhibit on the historic transition from one-room school house to consolidated district schools in Waterford.”
Cohanzie School has sat vacant in Waterford since 2008, when it was closed after the town moved the building’s students to the new and consolidated Quaker Hill Elementary School. It remains a small burden to taxpayers, as there are still some costs for some basic maintenance of the building.
Details, Town Reaction
Waterford received the grant from the Department of Economic and Community Development. After Nye had the building put on the state’s historic register in June – much to the chagrin of First Selectman Dan Steward and Planning Director Tom Wagner – the Connecticut Historic Preservation Office came in with the aforementioned solution to remediate the “significant environmental impact” of knocking down the building.
Steward said the ruling was fair, and the town would try to use either money from the grant or some town funds to build the exhibit. He suggested Nye, the Waterford Historical Society or the Waterford Historic Properties Commission could overtake the project of building the historic exhibit.
Steward said he hopes to have the building knocked down and the land remediated by the spring of 2013, but said that could change. After that, the town would look to sell the vacant lot to somebody to turn it into low-impact housing or a mixed-use development of low-impact housing and low-impact retail outlets, like accountants or doctor's offices.