Candidates attend the annual meeting at the Preservation Society

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Chris Hocker, Republican first selectman candidate, left, chats with Raymond D’Angelo, Redding Preservation Society chair, and Selectman Julia Pemberton, the Democrats’ first slecetman candidate, during Sunday’s annual meeting.

Preservation and conservation are values held high in a community proud of its historic and natural heritage. To honor that past, the Redding Preservation Society was founded in 1997, and held its 17th annual meeting on Sept. 15 at the home of Sherry and Hugh Karraker.
Candidates for first selectman, Christopher Hocker (R) and Julia Pemberton (D), were on hand to affirm their support for, and offer their views on, achieving the mission of the society to preserve Redding’s unique structures.
Raymond D’Angelo, society chair, posed two questions to the candidates: “What do you see that is good about Redding?” and “How can we best preserve our heritage — including homes, barns, outbuildings, and other antique structures?”
Both candidates expressed their commitment to an orderly process of identifying and safeguarding those buildings that embody Redding’s historic past. Mr. Hocker told the audience of more than 40 society members of that day in 1993 when he and his wife first saw their future Redding home. Its immediate appeal, he later learned, came from the fact that its provenance dated to the presidency of Andrew Jackson.
Ms. Pemberton advised that the society needed to make the history and importance of structures come alive and to educate and arouse the public’s interest in preserving Redding’s heritage. A priority list of structures to be saved would be a step in the right direction, she said.
Society member Laurie Heiss asked how to save the more than 100 barns from past eras that still stand in Redding and are listed in a state directory of historic barns.
Ms. Pemberton suggested the society work to make that list come alive by publicizing it, organizing tours to the sites and working with property owners. Mr. Hocker told of how he and neighbors have considered placing historic easements on their homes — preserving facades or other antique portions from change by future owners.
There was also discussion as to whether placing a historic easement on a structure increased or decreased its resale value, but there was no agreement on the answer. The deciding factor, it was suggested, is passion for preservation.
The proposed 180 Day Demolition Delay Ordinance, now before the Board of Selectmen, is another means for saving historic structures the Preservation Society is advocating, Mr. D’Angelo said. By extending the time for review and public comment before the town’s land use boards, such an ordinance might have helped prevent the society’s greatest setback of the year — the demolition of a valued barn on Umpawaug Road recognized in the state register, he said.
Both Ms. Pemberton and Mr. Hocker voiced their support for government regulations such as the demolition delay ordinance.
Mr. D’Angelo, in his overview of the society’s past year and its ongoing work as a watchdog and advocate for honoring Redding’s past, noted it had forged important ties with respected state and national organizations committed to preservation. As one of only two towns in the state, Redding was cited by the Connecticut Historic Preservation Trust for safeguarding its unique rural and unspoiled character. (Guilford was the other.)
Led by conservation pioneers such as Sam Hill, agreement on what the town should look like in the future and adoption of five- and 10-year plans to guide appropriate land use decisions make Redding a model for other communities and show that support for preservation crosses all political divides, it was said at the meeting.
One notable success of the past year, Mr. D’Angelo observed, was that although plans to turn the historic Charles Ives house into a museum and artistic retreat had fallen through and the property was sold to a private owner, the new owner has committed to a sensitive restoration of the site. All Ives artifacts have been photographed and catalogued and the house’s history documented with an eye to possible registration on the Connecticut State Register of Historic Houses.
Among society members’ advocacy activities before various town boards and commissions, Mr. D’Angelo cited the long-delayed Gilbert & Bennett redevelopment project in Georgetown, where preservationists commend all efforts to adhere to the original master plan developed with input and ideas from Redding citizens and town agencies.
Both Mr. Hocker and Ms. Pemberton voiced their approval of the important process that resulted in the master plan and their support for the strong laws that protect the future development of Georgetown.
During the meeting, Mr. D’Angelo recognized the commitment and work of Town Historians Kathleen Von Jenna and Charles Couch and commended, in particular, First Selectman Natalie Ketcham, who was also in attendance, for her long and ardent support of preservation.
For more information on the Redding Preservation Society and for becoming a member, contact Raymond D’Angelo at 203-938-0240.

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