Town Planner David Crompton, along with architectural consultants ARG, provided the commissioners with an overview of the project, which will maintain the front of the venerable building that faces out onto Hartz Avenue and add a sizable structure onto the rear.
Plans would nearly double the size of the existing 6,625-square-foot Veterans Hall. It would create specific areas for the veterans at the front of the building, house classrooms and other areas for seniors at the rear of the building, and provide a large shared community area usable by either group or rented out for special occasions.
In most cases, issues of this nature would be solely the province of the Planning Commission, but because the Veterans Hall is of historic significance, that brings it under the purview of the Heritage Resource Commission.
Several residents spoke during the public hearing over the plan. Resident Linda Stolow questioned the accessibility of the building to seniors with disabilities and the availability of nearby parking.
"I recently became handicapped, so having handicapped parking nearby is very important to me," she said. "If you really go and act as though you were handicapped and park in that Front Street parking lot you'd see that that's a long way to walk."
Stolow added that having a pull-out area on Prospect Avenue to allow seniors to be dropped off doesn't really help those seniors who drive themselves to the Veterans Hall.
Alamo resident Margreta VonPein called on the commissioners to deny the variances, as the renovation plan does not adequately address the needs of seniors. She also decried the loss of 11 trees that would be taken down as part of the project.
"Of the world's trees, redwoods put out the most carbon dioxide. Cutting them down will release huge amounts of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere," she explained.
Another Alamo resident, Steve Mick, has been a part of the proceedings since the inception of the Steering Committee and he offered his congratulations on a job well done.
"The design has gone through exhaustive public and community input. Everyone has performed admirably in addressing the needs of seniors and veterans. I urge the commissioners to look with great favor on the project," he stated.
Members of both commissions had few questions regarding the plan and most said they felt it presents a good compromise for the groups who use the building.
At the Planning Commission's recommendation, the Heritage Resource Commission voted unanimously to grant the variances and the initial plan for the Veterans Hall. The issue will now go to the Town Council for its approval. If the council gives its OK, the project can move forward with the bid process, while the Design Review Board fine tunes the final plan.
Planning Commissioner Robert Storer said he was very pleased with the plan and the process they went through to get it. "This has been a very effective and efficient process and frankly very impressive," he said. "We listened and we made changes. We won't make everybody happy, but we'll get close."
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