To Help Save Waterbury’s Historic Buildings

State Senator Joan Hartley listened to Brad Schide from the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation explain the demo delay ordinance. Hartley said having a conversation about historic buildings was important and the city should have a process in place to facilitate that discussion on a case by case basis.

Story and Photographs By John Murray

   A group of concerned citizens met tonight with representatives from the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation inside the Silas Bronson Library to discuss ways to protect Waterbury’s historic buildings from demolition. Wide spread community outrage erupted last month when the Immaculate Conception Church began demolishing the 140-year-old Trinity Episcopal Church to make way for a parking lot.

   Although Trinity Church could not be saved, the executive director of the library, Raechel Guest, organized a meeting with Brad Schide of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation who strongly advocated for the creation of a “demo delay ordinance” in Waterbury. Schide addressed the first meeting of residents several weeks ago and said Waterbury is the only city in Connecticut that does not have a demo delay ordinance, which he said was “outrageous.”

The demolition of the Trinity Episcopal Church revealed that the city has no tools in place to protect historic buildings from the wrecking ball. Just a decade ago the city almost demolished Waterbury City Hall before Waterbury residents voted to bond money for a complete restoration.

   Several attendees of the first meeting spoke at the next Board of Aldermen meeting and specifically asked for a demo delay ordinance. The request was referred to Corporation Counsel’s Office to research options. Tonight’s meeting was a strategy session to explore steps towards getting a demo delay ordinance passed.

   Schide told the group the the demo delay would not stop demolition, but would slow down the process to allow for other options to be explored. He also told the group that the biggest opposition to the ordinance would come from the owners of the historic buildings who want to control the outcome of their private property.

   “This ordinance would not stop the demolition,” Schide said, “but it would give the community 180 days to explore other options.”

   The next step the group decided was to directly engage Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary, the 15 members of the Board of Aldermen, State Representatives and State Senators in a conversation about the importance of creating a demo delay in Waterbury.