The needler in the haystack.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Lampkin House: Can this puzzle be solved?


Google map showing relative locations of the properties discussed in the proposal.
 
Plainfield's Lampkin House, once again (see my November, 2008 post on this hapless historic property here, and Olddoc's post from this past weekend here).

Now it is to be presented to the Council on Monday as a grant application in support of the City acquiring, stabilizing and preparing a preservation plan for the property, which sits on Terrill Road just south of Whitewood Court.

The supporting documentation talks about linking the historic house (dating to as early as 1690) with the 30-acre 'retention basin' against which it abuts as a possible nature trails and 'passive recreation' complex.





Two views I took of the house in 2008, plus the placard saying the property is 'uninhabitable'.
Though the Peterson Farm, which will be county-owned when the life estate of the current owners comes to an end, is mentioned in the documentation, this appears to be a bit of a stretch. First, because part of the discussion with the County which led to the acquisition of the Peterson Farm was its development as a 'working farm museum', and secondly because the Farm and the wetlands retention basin are not physically connected. This would involve easements from all the adjoining property owners or the purchase of a swath from all of them to connect the properties.

In better times, this would be an almost irresistible project -- even without a feasibility study.

But these are not better times.

I think a better route for this project would be to engage the County directly as the purchaser of the Lampkin House, and for the County to conduct a feasibility study on developing a uniquely urban trailside experience that capitalizes on the unique characteristics of the flora and fauna of the currently city-owned 'retention basin', which is really a wetlands list on Plainfield's open space inventory.

The cover letter urging support of the proposal does not mention dollar figures -- never a good sign.

Like Mayor Robinson-Briggs' proposal for the City to entangle itself with a proposed use for the Armory (which is also expected to be on the Council's agenda Monday), the Lampkin House proposal has all the earmarks of a classic 'money pit' scenario.

As the country seems to be sliding back into recession, and with the City facing still more difficult budgets once we get on the calendar-year track, the prudence of these kinds of projects will be weighed against the possibility of further staff and service reductions, putting the Council in a difficult rock-and-hard-place situation.

I think the County is the best locus for such a project, and with the bottomless resources of the Union County Improvement Authority bonding machine, matters of acquisition, feasibility studies, project design and implementation would fall like a birch tree before a beaver.

Not to mention that the new County Manager, Al Faella, who comes over from the Parks Department, would immediately grasp the positives of such a project.


NOTE: I have posted online the document that was emailed me on behalf of the Historic Preservation Commission, which appears to have written it, view it here.


-- Dan Damon [follow]

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7 comments:

Bob said...

Has anyone thought about getting corporate sponsors to help with this and have the city or county run it. That would save a historically valuable property and save money for the taxpayers.

Billy Toth said...

my understanding is that a $92,000.00 city investment would be required for the city to take possesion of the property ... less than $2.00 per citizen of Plainfield ... I think it would be a sad day for the city if we did not acquire this property and the house were torn down ... and yes I do realise that the house in in very poor condition and will require stabilization and repair.

Billy Toth said...

it is my understanding that a $92,000.00 investment by the city is required for the city to take possesion of this property, less than $2.00 per citizen ... I think it would be a sad day for the city if this property were not acquired and torn down ... yes I understand that the house is in very poor condition and will require stabilization and repair

Billy Toth said...

it is my understanding that a $92,000.00 investment by the city is required for the city to take possesion of this property, less than $2.00 per citizen ... I think it would be a sad day for the city if this property were not acquired and was torn down ... yes I understand that the house is in very poor condition and will require stabilization and repair

Pat Turner Kavanaugh said...

Dan: the request Monday night is for a relatively small amount of money, necessary to apply for a larger county grant. The Planning Board endorsed this maybe two months ago. And there is, in fact, an easement, which does tie the retention basin to the Peterson Farm and then, I believe, to Leland Avenue, where the county owns the former farm workers' house, used for SWAT practice. I don't know the details of that easement, but have seen it on a map.

olddoc said...

Dan & Pat, Any easement from the retention basin to Leland Ave. would have to be "the brook" that runs to the pumping station on Watchung Ave.

Anonymous said...

The Lampkin House was discussed at the July 26th Historic Preservation Commission Meeting where the Mayor was to appear to discuss the project. The mayor never showed. The map distributed at the meeting notes a "50' wide storm sewer right of way" from the retention basin to the Peterson Farm.

Wil Gipp