“You shouldn’t look at this any differently than you would a strip club, a pool hall or any other type of church ...
... The residents I represent are committed to protecting the integrity of the historic district.”
-- Atty. Neil Marcus
The proposal meets state and federal standards and is a good fit for the historic district.
“The project is appropriate in size and scale with the neighboring properties and is in no way incongruous with the fabric of the historic district.”
-- Jared Edwards, architectural consultant for Chabad Lubavitch
Editor's Note: Generally, Hysterical District Commissions have no authority over alterations that cannot be seen from the street. Integrity is an interesting choice of words by the attorney.
Residents say plan out of character for district
BY JOHN MCKENNA
LITCHFIELD — A plan by Chabad Lubavitch of Litchfield County to convert and enlarge a West Street house into a synagogue generated opposition during a public hearing that drew upward of 100 people Thursday night.
Danbury attorney Neil Marcus,representing a group of Litchfield residents before the Borough of Litchfield’s Historic District Commission, said the Orthodox Jewish sect’s proposal for 85 West St. needs revision because the 21,000 square-foot building would dwarf surrounding properties.
“The biggest problem is that the mass and structure of the building is out of character forthe historic district,” Marcus told the commission. “You have to ask the applicant to come back with a design that is more compatible.”
Chabad Lubavitch’s proposal calls for an historically accurate restoration of the 135-yearold Victorian house and construction of a two-story addition in the back. The building would include a synagogue, quarters for the Chabad’s rabbi, Joseph Eisenbach, an apartment for Chabad staff and a swimming pool.
The public hearing, which began Nov. 15, is expected to conclude Dec. 20 when the commission is due to rule on the application. The deadline for the ruling is Dec. 22.
Marcus said his clients are prepared to hire an architectural consultant to review the proposal, but with the deadline looming won’t be able to do that. Instead, Marcus asked for the application to be withdrawn and refiled so it could be reviewed without time constraints.
“The residents I represent are committed to protecting the integrity of the historic district,” Marcus said. “Frankly, they don’t care what would go on inside the building. We are going to ask you to focus on the design.”
The plan Chabad Lubavitch architect Michael Boe presented during the hearing at the Litchfield Firehouse featured several changes made based on recommendations by the commission’s architectural consultant, John Herzan.
Herzan said modifications to some windows, the foundation and the roof line improve the design, although the size of the addition overwhelms the house.
Herzan added a clock tower planned for the top of the house would change the historic nature of the building and consideration should be given to removing it from the plan. There is no evidence, Herzan said, that a clock tower or cupola once existed on top of the house.
According to Jared Edwards, an architectural consultant for Chabad Lubavitch, the proposal meets state and federal standards and is a good fit for the historic district.
“The project is appropriate in size and scale with the neighboring properties and is in no way incongruous with the fabric of the historic district,” Edwards said. Marcus called the proposed design a “curve ball” in that it delivers what he called a look that appears historic but isn’t. He also disputed the notion the commission must give the application special consideration because it is being made by a religious organization.
“You shouldn’t look at this any differently than you would a strip club, a pool hall or any other type of church,” he said.