Cumberland Times-News

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February 13, 2013

Vote on Footer Dye sends decision to city council

CUMBERLAND — The Cumberland Historic Preservation Commission voted on Wednesday to back a resolution supporting an application for the Footer Dye Works Building to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The commission passed the resolution with a 6-1 vote at the City Hall meeting.

Matt Gilmore was the lone commission member to oppose the nomination.

Gilmore, who doesn’t feel the four-story structure is of historical significance without the adjacent sawtooth buildings that were part of the original complex, fears that a listing on the registry could cause a problem if the building is demolished in the future.

“If this building ends up on the national registry, will it be an obstacle it it needs torn down?” Gilmore said.

Kathy McKenney, the city’s liason to the commission, said, “No additional obstacle will be created by the registry.”

The Footer Dye Works Building is owned by the state of Maryland with the Canal Place Development and Preservation Authority acting in a managerial roll for the entity.

“Canal Place decided that as part of an incentive package for a potential developer, that being on the national registry would open the door for a federal tax credit, which is 20 percent. That is substantial for a developer,” said McKenney.

Sean McCagh, a local dermatologist, spoke during the public input portion of the meeting. He voiced his opposition to keeping the structure.

“Please do not do this. Talk to the people of Cumberland; this is not what they want,” said McCagh.

“They say that it (listing it on the registry) won’t affect it (removing the building), but I believe it will. I think listing it will get people behind it who are not from here and don’t have a clue that it is a eyesore or how dangerous it is,” said McCagh.

McCagh said he rides his bike there and is concerned about possible loose bricks near the top. “That last $50,000 that was put into it was a waste,” he said.

David Kauffman, a city councilman and a voting, ex-officio member of the commission, spoke about the long-term affect that the listing would have on the structure.

“This project has sat for 10 years without state and federal tax credits. I don’t think including it on the registry will pigeonhole us,” said Kauffman.

Kauffman said that ensuring the city could offer potential developers every financial incentive possible was important. However, he said he sees a day where removal of the building may be the only solution.

“I suggest that we have the leadership to advocate its elimination, like we did with Memorial Hospital. Let’s remove this obstacle (lack of federal tax credits without the national registry listing) and determine whether development can happen. The market will deal with this in five years’ time. It will be in renovation from a viable developer or it will be torn down,” said Kauffman.

Dee Dee Ritchie, executive director of the Canal Place authority, commented on the perception that the Footer Building could be readily torn down.

“I can’t just tear it down. There is a process I must go through. I have a due diligence to protect it,” said Ritchie.

“Once the building is restored, I think tons of people will come to see it,” said Ritchie.

Commission member Henry Bullamore gave his main reasons for supporting the nomination.

“You have to remember that this request is coming from the property owners. I respect their judgment and concern for the property,” said Bullamore.

The application will go before the mayor and city council and then in March it will be reviewed by a state commission. If it is approved, the nomination will go for final approval by the National Park Service.

“This is not a three strikes you’re out thing. If it is bounced back, we can rewrite and continue to apply,” said commission chairwoman Cheri Yost.

Greg Larry can be contacted at glarry@times-news.com

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