The volunteer body that oversees New Canaan’s Historic District is poised to approve a request from an organization located on God’s Acre to replace cedar shingles on part of a building there with asphalt shingles.
The New Canaan Museum and Historical Society is seeking to replace keep the shingles on its 1825 “Town House” building facing Oenoke Ridge as cedar, but to use asphalt shingles for the roof of a 2000 addition that houses the Lindstrom conference room, officials said.
“We have a number of leaks,” the organization’s executive director, Nancy Geary, told members of the Historic District Commission at their July 23 meeting, held via videoconference.
“One of the problems that we have is under roof of Lindstrom Room as part of of the library roof is where we store our extensive clothing and textile collection,” she said. “So we are very worried about water damage in there. It’s already leaking in the attic extensively. We collected bids, and the reason we are asking a material change is that we want roof to be uniform. Right now the asphalt side is very ugly. It’s a very poor-quality asphalt. But the bids that we got for the cedar, to do it all in cedar, one of the bids was as high as $140,000. The bid with the company that we are going to go with was almost $70,000. And what we are paying if we can do with the asphalt shingles is $40,000. Unfortunately, this has come at a little bit of a perfect storm for us in that all of our spring fundraising events which are our major fundraisers were canceled because fo COVID but we have to stop the roof and maintain the property.”
Under the town’s Historic District Regulations, the Commission must approve alterations to the exterior of buildings located in the district.
At times, the Commission has heated discussions with property owners regarding the materials used for what appear to be very small projects—for example, Commissioners Carl Rothbart and Mark Markiewicz in October voiced strong opposition to the use of materials used for the roof of a small rebuilt portico at 4 Main St.
Yet Rothbart, the Commission’s secretary, during last week’s meeting said he’d walked the Historical Society property with Geary and “felt when I spoke with Nancy that it’s critical to replace materials on the historic building in kind.”
“The Historical Society seems to agree going in that direction,” Rothbart said.
The Commission stopped short of granting the Historical Society a “Certificate of Appropriateness” for the roof project, as some members said they wanted to see a sample of the asphalt material to be used. (A special meeting is to be scheduled for Thursday to vote on the application.)
Commission Chair Tom Nissley presided over the meeting. He’s vice president of the Historical Society’s Board of Governors, according to the organization’s website.
Commissioners asked Geary twice to confirm that the proposal is to have asphalt shingles facing the public roadway, which she did. Geary noted that replacing all the cedar shingles with like materials would not only cost more upfront, but also would cost more down the road as they would need to be replaced sooner than asphalt. Even so, “if the Commission thought that would be the difference in going forward or not, the Executive Committee [of the Historical Society Board] supports the additional cost for that section,” she said.
Commissioner Todd Lampert said he would only feel comfortable voting on the application if he saw a sample first. He asked Geary how imperative it is to get the project done.
“Is it leaking now?” he said.
Geary said yes. “It is actually leaking into a section where we store clothing and textiles and there are multiple leaks.”
“And we put this off thinking that we might be able to patch,” she continued. “I got an estimate for patching, but even just patching for one little section is $4,000 to $5,000. It doesn’t make sense economically.”
Nissley, Rothbart, Lampert, Vice Chair Marty Skrelunas and Commissioner Pam Randon voted in favor convening a special meeting this week to vote on the Certificate of Appropriateness.