Please remember that nothing on this webpage is official information.


LACHAT ADVISORY COMMITTEE("Lachat Building & Maintenance Committee") - re-formed in 2008!  Mission Statement coming!
Weston Town Representatives: Richard Wolf, Michael Greenberg, Carolyn Mulcahey, Glenn Major, Dave Christopher; Jack Beal, new member of Lachat Committee (original group - Town and Conservancy Representatives); almost all in attendance at Public Hearing.
NOTE:  this link includes education programming at Devil's Den - http://www.newcanaannature.org



LACHAT AGAIN IN 2011
Board of Selectmen on Jun 19, 2008, discuss with Dr. Steve Patton of the Nature Conservancy the general idea for resuming discussion and getting another Committee appointed to prepare for eventual Planning & Zoning Commission presentation of a more modest proposal for the Lachat property.  "Mission Statement" for 2008 version of this group coming at July 3, 2008 meeting of the Selectmen, we think.  Since the bad winter of 2010-2011, the Lachat Homestead Committee has advised the Selectmen of the dire condition of that property at a Public Hearing;  subsequently, the full Board votes to mark the property with tape and to demolish it unless there was some way to rescue it with out-of-town funds (About Town's choice of words - not official).



Lachat plans back on table; Town reconvenes committee
Weston FORUM
by BRIAN GIOIELE
Nov 20, 2007


After months of inactivity, plans for the Lachat property jumped into high gear Thursday.

At its meeting Nov. 15, the Board of Selectmen voted to reconvene the Select Committee on the Lachat Property, which will meet with Steve Patton, Devil’s Den director, and prepare a plan that would ultimately come before a town public hearing.

That plan will likely include walking trails and a renovation of the Lachat house on Godfrey Road West.

“They have really stepped up to the plate,” said Selectman Glenn Major about the Nature Conservancy.

All this happened without the issue even being on the selectmen’s regular agenda.

Mr. Major asked that discussion of the Lachat property’s future be placed on the agenda after informing the board that he had met with Dr. Patton the previous day.

“The Nature Conservancy is not in a position to set out what its best plans will be,” Mr. Major said. “But Steve did indicate that the Nature Conservancy is very willing to talk to the town along the lines of the proposal that they earlier rejected.”

To the front burner

The future of the property came back to the front burner at the Nov. 1 selectmen’s meeting, when Mark Harper — who had been involved in the original negotiations between Leon Lachat and the Nature Conservancy several years ago — asked that the board press the issue with conservancy officials.

Mr. Major agreed at that meeting to send a formal letter to Dr. Patton asking what the Nature Conservancy’s intentions are pertaining to the property off Godfrey Hill Road, but before that letter was even penned, the Devil’s Den director contacted the selectman.

“They are willing to bring the project into a much smaller scale,” said Mr. Major, adding that the conservancy is ready to remove former plans for a large meeting room from the project.

Mr. Major said he was told by Dr. Patton that the conservancy is ready to make the old Lachat home into office space and create walking trails from the property to the neighboring preserve.

“The Nature Conservancy would make the house the gateway to the preserve,” Mr. Major said. “And they would close Pent Road as the main access.

“Clearly there are things that need to be worked through here, but the general consensus is that this a good start,” Mr. Major added.

This step comes after weeks of silence about the future of the site. The selectmen had formed the latest select committee on the property’s future after the Annual Town Budget Meeting two years ago declined to pay for the Nature Conservancy’s initial development plans.

That new select committee then held two public meetings and toured the site before preparing a site development proposal — one that was much smaller in scope. The Nature Conservancy rejected the town’s plan at that time.
 


Select committee to oversee Lachat homestead
Weston FORUM
by KIMBERLY DONNELLY
Sep 26, 2007
 
Repair and maintenance on the farmhouse on the Lachat property will be overseen by a newly appointed select committee. —Kimberly Donnelly photo 
A newly formed town committee has been charged with “safeguarding” the house on the Lachat property, which is jointly owned by the town and the Nature Conservancy.

The Select Committee for the Lachat House was formed by the Board of Selectmen at its meeting last Thursday, Sept. 20, as an advisory committee whose mission it is to “analyze and make recommendations regarding the maintenance and stabilization of the Lachat homestead.”

Selectman Glenn Major said the town had success with its Heddy House Committee, which oversaw the preservation of that historic town property. “Now we face a similar challenge with the Lachat house,” Mr. Major said. The three-person committee is charged with reviewing conditions at the house and estimating required maintenance and repair costs, as well as ongoing maintenance costs. It will also oversee any work done at the house.

In addition, committee members must work with the Nature Conservancy to try to “explore a long-range plan for [the house’s] use.”

After forming the committee, the board unanimously appointed its three members: David Coprio, Paul Dysenroth, and Robert Uzenoff, who will serve as the committee’s chairman.  Mr. Uzenoff, who has served on the Parks and Recreation Commission and has lived in Weston since 1983, said, “I am glad to serve in this capacity.”

“It’s very prudent that the town takes care of the facilities it owns,” Mr. Dysenroth, a Westonite since 1965, said, adding that as a member of the select committee, he will see that this particular facility is not “let go.”

Mr. Coprio, who is a member of the town Building Committee and the School Building Committee, was not at the Board of Selectmen meeting, but Selectman Richard Miller spoke highly of his qualifications.

“I know David Coprio, and he is very well prepared to take on this task,” Mr. Miller said.

The select committee must present a report concerning the immediate needs of the Lachat house to the selectmen no later than Nov. 4. A report concerning long-term plans and repairs is due by Jan. 31, 2008.



Town asks Nature Conservancy...Now what for Lachat?
Weston FORUM
by KIMBERLY DONNELLY
Sep 26, 2007

It’s been nearly 10 years since the town of Weston and the Nature Conservancy jointly purchased the Lachat property with the intention of making it the “gateway to Devil’s Den.” But plans to develop an education center there, to maintain trails that would connect the land to the conservancy’s nature preserve at The Den, to add parking, and even to put up signs designating the area the Julianna Lachat Nature Preserve have yet to come to fruition.

Now, it looks like the town will have to wait at least another month before finding out what the conservancy is willing to do to advance those plans.

At the Sept. 20 Board of Selectmen meeting, Selectman Glenn Major said he had met recently with Steve Patton, director of the Saugatuck Forest Lands Project and Devil’s Den, regarding the Lachat property.

“I’ve asked Steve to put together what the Nature Conservancy would perceive to be the minimum they would be willing to do to go forward, other than just keeping the property in their back pockets as something ... just ‘preserved,’” Mr. Major said.

Dr. Patton, who was not at the selectmen’s meeting, said the next day that the information being sought is a decision that must be made by the Connecticut chapter of the Nature Conservancy, not by him alone. He expected it would take upward of a month before anything could be presented to the selectmen.


History

The Lachat property off Godfrey Road West consists of a 32-acre homestead parcel (see related article) and 10 acres of hillside and meadows adjacent to the Devil’s Den Nature Preserve.

In 1997 and 1999, the town of Weston and the Nature Conservancy jointly purchased the properties, including a farmhouse, a few barns and several outbuildings, from the late Leon Lachat.

In 2005, the town and the Nature Conservancy presented a plan to the Weston Planning and Zoning Commission calling for the renovation of several buildings and the construction of a parking lot and a new 5,204-square-foot visitors and education center on the Lachat property.

That plan was heavily opposed by the public and was withdrawn before coming to a vote. Further discord was noted at the Annual Town Budget Meeting in April 2006, when voters turned down a $450,000 appropriation for the Lachat project.

After those rejections, Dr. Patton said the Nature Conservancy’s main focus had shifted from education to preservation, and it would respect the will of the people and support whatever the town wanted to do with the property.

However, Mr. Major said it was that shift away from an educational focus that has caused the property to remain in limbo.

In the fall of 2006, the town appointed a Lachat Advisory Committee, which, at the end of the year, made recommendations to an already existing Lachat Building Committee. This spring, the building committee presented a proposal to the Nature Conservancy, which was a significantly scaled-down, modified version of the original plan.

“The Nature Conservancy rejected it out of hand,” Mr. Major said on Thursday.

And so, Mr. Major met with Dr. Patton last week to express his concerns about the lack of progress, Mr. Major said. “Steve did not seem to waver much from the Nature Conservancy’s position, and their general shift in policy.”



Management and economics

On Friday, however, Dr. Patton indicated that it is not so much a shift in policy that is causing the stalemate but it is rather a matter of logistics and economics.

The proposal from the Lachat Building Committee “was substantially less than the original proposal,” Dr. Patton said. “We didn’t think it would work from a management standpoint.”

The scaled-down proposal calls for leaving the Pent Road entrance to Devil’s Den open, while adding a new entrance, with additional parking and a second set of administrative offices, at Lachat, Dr. Patton said.

“We’re pretty restrictive as to what is permitted within the preserve [for example, no cars or bikes or ATVs are allowed] ... If we don’t have staff at both entrances, we run the risk of losing control of the preserve and that becomes a problem,” Dr. Patton said.

The underlying problem, he said, would be the cost of maintaining two entrances and an additional facility.

“If we don’t have a facility that can help us generate revenue through programming options ... then we’re looking at maintaining the operating expenses of yet another building,” he said. The scaled-down facilities at Lachat would not bring in revenue to cover those costs, he added.

Dr. Patton explained that the operating costs of the residence and office currently maintained by the conservancy at Pent Road are covered by an endowment; that endowment would not cover the operating expenses of a second entrance and facility, he said.

“The plan we had would have worked for us financially, but scaled down to an office and parking lot, it doesn’t seem to work. That was our conclusion,” Dr. Patton said.

He did say he would bring the matter to the attention of the Connecticut chapter of the Nature Conservancy, and he hoped to have an answer within a month or so as to what — if anything — the conservancy might now be willing to pursue.



Frustration

Several people, including Mark Harper (who helped broker the original deal between Leon Lachat, the town, and the Nature Conservancy), former First Selectman Hal Shupack, and Mr. Major, expressed frustration with the discrepancy between what was intended for the property and what the conservancy is legally bound to do.

When the agreements were written, Mr. Major said, they were done so with a certain expectation in mind — that there would eventually be an education center on the Lachat property. “Therefore, the obligations of the various parties were written with that component in mind. Without that component, it shifts those obligations,” he said.

“I’m upset because no one has gotten to enjoy the property or use the land or any of the fields,” Mr. Harper said. Regardless of how contracts between Mr. Lachat, the town and the conservancy can now be interpreted, “that’s not the spirit of the agreement,” he said. Mr. Lachat always intended for people to be able to use and enjoy the property, and for there to be an educational component.

“The town is being somewhat held hostage by the Nature Conservancy,” which is now doing nothing but keeping the land as is, Mr. Harper said. “It’s somewhat distressing because that was not Leon’s intention.”

Mr. Major stressed that he “hopes the Nature Conservancy will put together a proposal that will address those concerns.”

Mr. Shupack agreed with Mr. Harper that, legal language aside, “the Nature Conservancy’s position does not comply at all with the intention” of the original agreement. He called the original plans for the property “exciting” and “an opportunity to have the entire Devil’s Den at our fingertips for environmental research and education.”

Mr. Shupack also said the Pent Road entrance to The Den is dangerous and hazardous. The preserve would be better served by an entrance at Lachat.

When Mr. Shupack offered to help with any legal negotiations between the town and the Nature Conservancy, Mr. Major said again he hoped the conservancy would respond in a way “that will not necessitate us having to go in a direction we might have to go.”



NEW SELECT COMMITTEE ESTABLISHED FOR LACHAT HOUSE AT SEPTEMBER 20, 2007 SELECTMEN'S MEETING:
Charged to find out over the next year or so what needs doing to stablize structure, what the cost would be to do some improvements to Lachat

First Meeting: Saturday, September 22, 2007, 11am, at the Lachat House

Members:  Paul Deysenroth, Bob Uzenoff and Dave Coprio


Lachat property: Committee sums up sentiments
Weston FORUM
by KIMBERLY DONNELLY
Dec 6, 2006

After nearly three months of gathering public input, the Lachat Advisory Committee has approved its recommendations for the property that borders Devil’s Den Nature Preserve.

Chief among the recommendations the advisory committee is passing along to the Lachat Building Committee is that the existing buildings be structurally repaired and updated as needed; that the overall aesthetic feel of the property be maintained and preserved while allowing for greater access to Devil’s Den; and that parking and meeting space be made available.

Noticeably absent from the report are any recommendations for new buildings to be constructed at the site at this time.

The Lachat property consists of a 32-acre homestead parcel and 10 acres of hillside and meadows. In 1997 and 1999, the town of Weston and the Nature Conservancy jointly purchased the properties, including a farm house, a few barns, and several outbuildings, from the late Leon Lachat.

In 2005, the town and the Nature Conservancy presented a plan to the Planning and Zoning Commission calling for the renovation of several buildings and construction of a parking lot and new 5,204-square-foot visitors and education center on the Lachat property.

That plan was heavily opposed by the public and was withdrawn before coming to a vote. Further discord was noted at the Annual Town Budget Meeting in April when voters turned down a $450,000 appropriation for the Lachat project.

After those rejections, Steve Patton, the director of Devil’s Den, said the Nature Conservancy’s main focus had shifted from education to preservation, and it would respect the will of the people and support whatever the town wanted to do with the property.

To that end, the Board of Selectmen in August appointed five members to the Lachat Advisory Committee to gather input as to what the public would like to see done with the property.

The advisory committee held two public hearings in September, and a public walk of the property in November. Based on the inputit received, the committee, on Monday, Dec. 4, unanimously approved its recommendations.

“I’m very happy with where we ended up,” said Selectman Glenn Major, who sits on the advisory committee, along with Richard Wolf, Michael Greenberg, Carolyn Armbrust Mulcahey, and Dave Christopher.

“It really will be a much needed facility for all of the town, not just for schoolchildren. I think it’s not going to attract a large influx of people from out of town, yet it becomes an appropriate facility for whomever uses The Den,” Mr. Major said of the overall vision the committee tried to convey.

Mr. Major said he was also pleased with how the information-gathering process went.

“The people who had an inherent interest were given an opportunity to express their desires and concerns,” he said. “We were very fortunate, because there was not a huge dichotomy of desires. Whether it was an immediate neighbor of the Lachat property, or someone from across town, everyone said pretty much the same things,” he said.

The advisory committee tried to include most of the ideas that were presented during the public hearings in its report to the building committee — even those ideas that were only expressed by a few people, Mr. Major said.

In its executive summary, the advisory committee wrote:
“The overwhelming desire is to preserve the integrity of the property and its historical representation of farming in Weston; use it for passive recreation and enjoyment of the natural meadows, hills, and wetlands; maintain the existing streetscape; repair the main buildings; and manage the traffic by minimizing on-site parking and keeping other Devil’s Den access points open and accessible to the public, including the Pent Road entrance.”

Other ideas the committee heard included creating a community garden or farm project, building a gallery, or using the site for a community center.
The report also states people expressed interest in the buildings and property being used as an entrance to Devil’s Den, and “for educational purposes, including a welcome/visitor’s center limited to the existing barns, which could be renovated, and expanded, if necessary.”

(See related story below for the committee’s complete specific recommendations.)

The advisory committee suggested that the building committee ought to “immediately stabilize and shore up the main house and barns to prevent any further deterioration while a long term plan is being developed.”

With the presentation of the recommendations to the building committee, the ball is now in its court. The six-member building committee, which consists of three representatives for the town (Mr. Wolf, Mr. Greenberg, and Jack Biel) and three representatives for the Nature Conservancy (Richard Bochinski of Weston, John Zaro of New Canaan, and Kate Ebbott of Redding), will put together conceptual drawings and cost estimates.

Those, in turn, will go back to the advisory committee for review and more public input before final plans are drawn and presented for town approval and permitting.


Dec 6, 2006
Lachat committee offers recommendations

-------------------------------------
 
The Lachat Advisory Committee agreed Monday night to present the following specific recommendations to the Lachat Building Committee:


Farm House

•    Structural repairs to the building are immediately required to stabilize the building and preserve the look and aesthetics of the farmhouse appearance.
•    Exterior — repairs to the roof, porch, siding, windows, and foundation work as needed.  Roof and window repairs needed to keep out the elements should be undertaken immediately.
•    Interior — no specific changes identified.  However, use may be desired in the existing layout of the downstairs for meeting room/office for the interests of the Town and The Nature Conservancy.  The upstairs may be reserved for non-public use, such as a residence, office or storage space. 

Barn buildings

•    Maintain the streetscape of the barns as currently existing.
•    Structural repairs or replacement of the barn buildings, for public use, possibly extending the footprint on the rear side.
•    Meeting space with no permanent fixtures, e.g. movable, simple benches for 40-50 people.  Usable year-round, and taking advantage of views to the north.
•    Some suggestions included a loft area with a window facing the rear view and a possible open-air, covered porch also in rear of the barns.
•    Handicapped accessible bathrooms with entrances from both the interior and exterior of the barns, accessible drinking fountain(s).
•    An area for a utility sink and counter.
•    Open Stall Barn — Preserve for special use as gathering area and open to the courtyard, for displaying farm implements, but not to be used as a maintenance facility.

Remaining outbuildings and open space

•    There were no strong objections to the remaining buildings being removed, i.e. the carriage house and the machine shop.
•    Design the parking area and entrance/exit to property to be contained in the current house/barn area of the property and retain the remaining acreage in its natural state.
•    Incorporate parking for approximately 25-30 cars.  The parking area materials should be of natural appearance though effective in managing efficient parking and traffic flow.  Seasonal needs of parking, handicap space requirements, and bus accessibility or a streetside pull-off for buses should all be considered.
•    Identify a small garden/small farming plot area, close to the house and barn, which may be instituted if desired.
•    Install a natural path, with a bridge across the wetlands, to the access point into Devil’s Den along with other appropriate trails through the property, including from the parking area to the upper field.



PUBLIC HEARINGS ON LACHAT:

#2 September 25th at 7pm in the Weston Library...we did not attend.  However:
Monday evening was a busy time in Weston Town Hall complex - Planning and Zoning held its meeting including the provocative item on benches/tables at Weston Center.  P&Z moved from their usual place in the Commission Room to the more commodious Town Hall Meeting Room.  It is reported by an accurate source that only a "handfull" of people were present for that issue, but one of these individuals presented a petition signed by hundreds and hundreds (and yet again hundreds) of individuals supporting benches/tables behind Weston Center.  P&Z OK'd the benches/tables with the usual conditions and care they take on everything.

In the Library was Public Hearing #2 on Lachat.  It is reported to us that a crowd of 38 attended that meeting.  The Weston Forum had a reporter present (a different one than covered the first Public Hearing).  More to come...click here for FORUM report.

#1 was September 12 (report below)...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006 at 7pm in the Weston Library, approximately 40 Westonites delivered comments to the new Committee.  The previous work of the previous Committees not considered - only new thoughts.  Some present described how Mr. Lachat had shared his hillside in snow season;  how beautiful it is to pass by along Godfrey West and see the field and barns - speeders even slow down - and it was understood that the previous Plan, although "dead" was still in play until another was developed (our interpretation).

A copy of "Gateway" document by Edgecomb available for review, as were "competition" boards from top two firms.  Need for parking discussed.  Sense of this meeting not to develop more than bathroom, office for someone affiliated with the property's open space mission, minimal parking.  One member of the public brought up the fact that the choices discussed must meet with N.C. rules (i.e. no dogs).

Several people, including the First Selectman, noted that the farm house needed work to maintain it safely (and the heating system for the garage apartment was on shakey ground) - some action needs to be taken soon to maintain the asset...

The Weston FORUM present.


Discussion at Special Board of Selectmen's Meeting Thursday, August 17, 2006, 5:30pm, Town Hall Meeting Room:

1. Summary given of what occured at Wednesday, August 9 meeting at Weston Library of Lachat Advisory Committee.
2. NOTE:  if desire for public input is to be met, then "hearings" must wait until after summer vacation...when the public is around!
3. Given this decision, then it is not possible due to timing by Sec'y of the State's office, to place a "question" on the November 7, 2006 ballot
4. "Public Hearings" set for Tuesday, September 12, 2006 at 7:30pm in the Weston Library and Monday, September 25, 2006, 7:30pm in the Library, too.
5.  Status of tenant in Lachat Garage apartment: presently without lease - Selectmen voted to give month to month lease with proviso that heating system may need some work - a complication re: its relation to ultimate plan for property. 

The first meeting of the Lachat Advisory Committee ("Building & Maintenance Committee") took place Wednesday, August 9, 2006, at 7:30pm, in the Weston Library.  On the agenda were four topics plus "other items."  Present were:  Beal, Wolf, Greenberg, Mulcahey, Major.

First was "review of prior plans."  A discussion of the alternatives of Edgecomb and limitations re:  legal agreements took place (NOTE:  "About Town" did not arrive until @8pm).  Second on the agenda was "discussion of process and feasibility by which to acquire input from Weston residents on preferred activities going forward for the Lachat property's building and maintenance plan and use."  Will not be able to both secure significant public input or exposure in time to put item on November 7, 2006 ballot.

Third item was "establish a process timeline, including meeting dates and other next steps."  This was done, with two dates in September - the 12th(a Thursday)* and the 25th (a Monday) as times set aside for informal "public hearings" - for the public to tell the Committee what they would like to see - some positive ideas - on Lachat.  These "hearings" will be held at 7:30pm in Weston Library (with a Committee meeting at 7pm prior to each).

Four:  It is expected that this Committee will meet once after the "public hearings" to decide what to ask of the Lachat Conservation/Education Center Committee re: revising previously approved concepts.

* - September 12th is a Tuesday - but it could have been the Thursday date, which would be the 14th.   We will check on this...