The Village of Thomaston’s Landmarks Preservation Commission will meet on Feb. 8, when the decision on the former Belgrave Motors and Tower Ford building’s landmark status could be provided.
The building, located at 124 S. Middle Neck Road, has been a hot-button issue since July, when initial plans were submitted, and subsequently withdrawn, to develop a five-story apartment complex on the property. During the commission’s Jan. 4 meeting, peninsula residents, historical experts and the village’s hired consultant, Archeology Historic Resource Services, made presentations contending that the building deserves the village’s landmark designation.
Jason Flatt of Archeology Historic Resource Services said the research his group carried out concluded that the building satisfies the village’s definition of a landmark and maintains a “very high degree of integrity.”
Nancy Solomon, Great Neck Plaza’s former preservation consultant, said the peninsula’s longstanding history with automobiles and repair shops on Middle Neck Road enhances the building’s historical prominence and it should be deemed a landmark.
“The Tower Ford building is really one of those pristine gems and reminders of the history of Thomaston and all the surrounding villages that are part of Great Neck,” she said. “The automobile centrality to the history of this is critical to understand and to recognize.”
Anne Walker, an architectural historian and preservationist, spoke on the building’s Tudor Revival Style architecture, which is similar to other structures on the Great Neck peninsula, of which some have been granted landmark status by the Village of Great Neck Plaza.
“Like the surrounding homes, the Tudor Revival style gave Belgrade Motors a layer of respectability and tradition, integrating this building into its context,” Walker said. “Not only is the integrity of the building intact, its continued use as an auto showroom since 1931 and its place in the context of Great Neck’s architectural tradition makes it exceptional.”
With more than 100 members of the public on the Zoom call, every resident who spoke was in favor of granting the building landmark status. The state’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation declared the site eligible to be considered as a historic place on Oct. 29.
Stephen Limmer, the legal counsel for 124 Middle Neck Realty LLC, who put forward the plans to develop the five-story apartment, asked the committee during the meeting to adjourn the matter for 120 days so that the applicant can “adequately make a presentation to protect its interests.”
Residents asked the committee not to grant Limmer’s request for the delay, saying everyone in the village was aware of the Jan. 4 meeting date when it was scheduled in late November. The committee ultimately decided not to grant the adjournment.
Limmer, in a follow-up letter sent to the village on Monday, again asked for the commission to adjourn the matter until May 1 so that his client could come up with a multifamily dwelling unit acceptable to the village, despite strong residential opposition. Limmer also said his client does not believe the building deserves to be granted landmark status.
“My client believes that there is no particular historic, aesthetic, or other aspect of the building for which it should be given landmark status thus unduly restricting its use and imposing unjustified added expense to its upkeep,” Limmer said in the letter.
In December, the village repealed a local zoning law that, along with the proposal, was met with strong opposition from the public. The law was passed during a July meeting and allowed the Board of Trustees to have “sole and unfettered discretion” on what conditions and incentive use permit may be granted to certain applicants. The law applied to applicants that have a property located partially in the Apartment B and Residence 10 zoning districts, a total area of at least 0.75 acres but not exceeding one acre, a depth at its greatest point of at least 200 feet and street frontage on Middle Neck Road of at least 230 feet.
The property at 124 S. Middle Neck Road, the former site of Tower Ford and the previously proposed apartment complex, lies partly in the Apartment B and Residence 10 zoning districts, has a total area of 0.96 acres, and has a depth of 234 feet, according to village documents.
The law, which remained in effect for 150 days after it was enacted in July, expired on Dec. 11, prior to the village’s repeal of it.
The commission’s Feb. 8 meeting will occur via Zoom on a link posted on the village’s website at 7:30 p.m.