Strong feelings expressed over historic Hahnewald barn project in Avon
AVON — The Hahnewald family might be pleased to know their barn is still inspiring strong feelings in the community.
Built before 1910, the barn is very large for that time and showcases the success local ranchers had in this area, Brian Sipes, with the Historic Preservation Advisory Committee, told the Avon Town Council on Tuesday, March 13.
The current owners need to move it off their property, and the Avon council agreed that — being a window into Avon’s history — the barn should be moved to a prominent location in town and repurposed.
That could get expensive, and talk of getting help from Avon residents in the form of a ballot initiative came up. Just how expensive it could be is not known, so a request for proposals process was agreed upon as a way of determining the cost.
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After some discussion, town council member Jake Wolf made a motion based on language recommended on page 249 of the council packet, which contained the directives: “Release Requests for Proposals” and “to be considered for a November 2018 ballot question.”
Council member Amy Phillips voiced her strong objection to the motion in the following statement:
“I object to the language that we are combining our commitment to this decision with a commitment to put it on the ballot. I think we’re combining issues that I have made perfectly clear numerous times that I don’t believe we need to be going to the voters to raise our taxes to fund this project. I am 100 percent in support of this project; I am 100 percent against us allowing our town manager to push us forward in a manner that does not work for this town and disrespects the fact that I have made this statement numerous times, and I’m done with it and tired of it.”
Phillips said she didn’t want to combine the project with a ballot vote because she thought it was premature and the process was being pushed along faster than it needed to happen.
“Presuming that somebody’s going to vote ‘yes,’ and also then when that vote goes down, the six of us or seven of us are going to be sitting up here as a parade of ‘no tax increase’ people come through this door and say, ‘I like the project but I don’t want you to increase my taxes.’ And there are other ways for us to get this project done without assuming we’re going to go to a vote, and this isn’t the first time I’ve said we have not been successful in years with a raising of taxes for anything. And we have absolutely no reason or information to believe this is different, and on all of the information we’re getting, we fail to find out if the people who are giving us opinions are voters in Avon.”
Wolf then made a motion to reconsider his last motion and proposed the town initiate the request for proposals process with no mention of a ballot question. It passed unanimously.
REPLACING TOWN HALL
The town’s planning commission has recommended the council try to figure out a way to place the barn in the very site where it was being discussed on Tuesday — Avon Town Hall.
With the town expected to vacate the current town hall building soon for a new location, a demolition of the current building has been suggested in a document the council is expected to vote on at its next meeting titled “Town of Avon Town Owned Properties Plan.”
The plan says the Hahnewald Barn, placed in the current town hall location, will be integral to the full spectrum of uses at the former fire station and the town’s performance pavilion.
That vision was also reflected on Tuesday by Sipes, who said you can find lots of examples of barn repurposing on the internet, and almost all of them are magical.
“They become beloved within their communities,” Sipes said. “They really serve to not only anchor a community to its past, but in a way that is entirely useful, it’s not just a static exhibit.”
Sipes said uses could include concert and lecture spaces, dances, banquets or weddings and also referenced a barn in Vermont that’s being used to host indoor pickleball courts.
The Hahnewald Barn is a framing lumber barn, so there are no columns down the middle like you would see in a timber-frame barn, creating an open floor plan.
“The barn is a big rectangle, and in its simplicity, it’s eminently usable,” Sipes said. “It becomes a very multipurpose space.”
30’ by 125’ WITH BASEMENT
The building has 3,300 square feet of space and could host 471 people in what’s called a “concentrated assembly,” factoring 7 square feet per person. Town code would allow 5 square feet per person.
In addition to being unusually large for such a rural area at the time, the 30-foot wide, 125-foot long barn also has a basement, which has been reinforced by its current owners, the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District.
“They’ve done an amazing job in the basement of adding a lot of steel to shore that up, so that foundation is actually not supporting that exterior wall,” Sipes said. “They’ve done that at their own expense.”
The district also put a metal roof on the structure, which has helped preserve the building over the years.
To move the barn, it would be cut into pieces and reassembled. The floor would be completely rebuilt.
“It will be a freestanding building that we then cover with another structure that will keep the snow and the wind from affecting that existing structure,” Sipes said. “From what we have evaluated, the structure is in good shape. … We could probably reuse a lot of the timbers.”
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