The committee fighting to save a post-Civil War landmark was expecting more of a battle at last Thursday’s development review meeting but instead found an easy, small victory.
The DRB unanimously approved a subdivision sketch plan to separate the Stannard House from its parent parcel occupied by the Gardener’s Supply Company warehouse, both located on Route 7.
In doing so, the board awarded a variance to create the new 6,800-square-foot lot when the governing industrial district’s minimum lot size is 100,000 square feet, or nearly 15 times its size.
Planning Director Jake Hemmerick advocated the approval in his staff report, recognizing the building’s historical significance. Now in disrepair, the house was once occupied by Gen. George Stannard of Georgia, credited with stopping a key Confederate charge in Gettysburg.
Public interest in saving the property, led by the General Stannard House Committee, “presents an exceptional circumstance that outweighs the variance criteria,” Hemmerick wrote.
The DRB apparently agreed, asking questions about the building’s future use but mostly glossing over how the proposed lot wouldn’t meet size and setback requirements.
“[Engineer Roger Dickinson] was prepared for the inquisition up there,” committee co-chairman Bill Kaigle said, his relief palpable after the vote. “The support seems to be very, very strong here on the town level.”
Dickinson, president of engineering firm Lamoureux & Dickinson and a Miltonian, is donating his time to help the group navigate the permitting process. He said in this case, the house saved itself.
“The historic house that’s there – that makes this property unique, it makes it exceptional,” he said.
Since last summer, the committee has raised $19,000 toward an estimated $300,000 restoration, which members hope will someday yield a museum, welcome center or otherwise official historic site.
The group got another step closer in April, when parent lot owner and philanthropist Bobby Miller agreed to donate the 100-by-68-foot space to the town of Milton, contingent on the DRB granting final subdivision approval to the project.
Another contingency of that deal was partially met when the Vt. Agency of Transportation issued a letter of intent in June, allowing a Route 7 curb cut. The approval requires all state and local permits and their conditions be met before a highway right-of-way is issued, the letter says.
To obtain final DRB approval, the committee must identify water and wastewater service and utility easement dimensions and also submit a zoning permit to demolish the house’s rear portion, which is not historically significant. It is also bisected by the lot’s new boundary, the staff report says.
Dickinson is especially helpful with these items, Kaigle said.
“You wouldn’t believe how much anxiety we’ve had just thinking about water and wastewater,” he said, referring to learning the nearest sewer service is 500 feet away, making a connection prohibitively expensive.
Dickinson said the committee has to decide on onsite wastewater capacity despite not knowing the building’s final use.
The group will also consider parking, including room for a school bus for future field trips, and making the structure handicap accessible. DRB members also asked about aesthetics, though they don’t govern them, including roof materials and paint colors.
Any changes have to be OK’d by the Vermont Division of Historical Preservation since the house is listed on the state historic register.
Though the town owns the structure, the committee plans to independently fund the house’s restoration. Kaigle hopes the parties can forge a similar shared upkeep agreement as with the Milton Historical Society’s School Street museum.
For now, though, Kaigle and crew are elated and are focusing on fundraising and researching grants so their vision can be realized. Dickinson will help prepare a final survey plat to submit next month; he expects to be back at the DRB in two to three months.
The group saw Thursday’s approval as another step closer to preserving an important part of Milton’s history.
“The town, the boards, have been extremely supportive,” committee co-chairwoman Kate Cadreact said. “The support has just been there when we’ve walked in. I’ve felt that.”