MONTPELIER — A modified plan to rescue a landmark farmstead in the Capital City will be considered by the City Council next Wednesday.
The plan proposes an initial estimate of $925,000 in repairs and upgrades to save the 1836 Greek Revival home located at 5 Home Farm Way on land formerly owned by Col. Jacob Davis, the founder of Montpelier.
The house is believed to have been built by subsequent property owner Burrage Dimmick, according to the National Register of Historic Places.
Earlier this year, the City Council formerly declared the building unsafe under a nuisance ordinance after an inspection revealed it was structurally deficient. It set a deadline of Wednesday for a comprehensive plan to secure the building to avoid its possible demolition. The five-acre property was formerly owned by Food Works, a local nutrition and agricultural education program, which named the site the Two Rivers Center because it is at the confluence of the Winooski and Stevens Branch Rivers.
But in 2014, Food Works was dissolved by its board of directors for being financially unviable after an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office concerning the improper management of grants and funds it received for education programs and the restoration of the building.
But according to officials involved, the ownership of the site remains in doubt because Food Works was not properly dissolved when it failed to sell some of its assets, including the property. Adjoining landowner Fred Connor, of Connor Contracting, said he has first right of refusal of the property is sold.
The holders of liens and conservation easements on the house and property have said they would like to see a new nonprofit take ownership of the site, restore the buildings and continue the preservation and conservation of the property as a historic site, agricultural center and education program.
The newly formed Two Rivers Partnership takes its name from the former center, and consists of Jamie Duggan, vice chairman of the Montpelier Historic Preservation Commission who also restore historic buildings through his company, Preservation Unlimited; and David Ide, the owner of the adjoining Montpelier Agway Farm and Garden Center on Route 2.
Duggan is interested in the restoration of the building and conservation of the land for educational programs, while Ide wants to expand his existing nursery business to compete with online competition and make his business a destination for customers.
Farmer George Gross also wants to grow organic vegetables on the site to support his Berlin-based Dog River Farm.
The updated proposal to the council to rehabilitate the building on-site said steps are being taken to incorporate the Two Rivers Partnership as a new legal entity, obtain grant funds to help with the restructure phase, seek legal advice on the transition of ownership (expected to take up to a year), seek state and regional grant funding, and develop budgets for short-term stabilization and longer-term restoration efforts.
“As a result, The Two Rivers Partnership respectfully asks City Council to consider our request for additional time to continue our efforts to solve the ownership situation and return with a more detailed plan and schedule for specific benchmarks to address this issue,” said the memorandum to City Council.
An outline of proposed work to stabilize the building and upgrade facilities totaling $925,000 includes: stabilize structure for timber repairs ($75,000); timber frame repairs ($125,000); foundation repairs ($175,000); exterior repairs ($125,000), first-floor interior repairs ($110,000); second-floor repairs ($75,000); restore original window sash repairs ($85,000); insulation ($30,000); and electrical, heating system and lighting design infrastructure ($120,000).
The minimum investment to stabilize the main block of the building and minimize it being a public nuisance, to satisfy the City Council under the nuisance ordinance, would be $225,000 before other work could continue, the memo said.
Duggan added that it was hoped to use the adjoining ell and barn as workshop space to allow for the restoration of the home before converting them to other uses.