Group asks that granite building be preserved

MILFORD – The Planning Board will not delay plans to build 16 apartments at the end of Tonella Road to allow time for the town Heritage Commission to come up with a way to save a granite building on the property.

At the board’s April 26 meeting, commission Chairman David Palance said the commission, an advisory board, would like to see a site plan that left the historic building standing.

“It’s very important to Milford … you wouldn’t remove a graveyard … you wouldn’t take down Burn’s Rock,” he said, referring to a monument to an early Milford settler. The stone house “talks to the heritage of Milford that you are looking to demolish.”

Doug McGuire, representing the Dubay Group, told the board the property owners are willing to donate the granite to display somewhere else and letting the Historical Society make some kind of a photo log to guide reconstruction.

“We are certainly not going to knock it down and bury it,” McGuire said.

But Palance said the Heritage Commission believes the value is in the structure, not the stones, and would be open to moving the building somewhere people could see it. But there is little value in the stones themselves, he said, only the building.

“Milford has tons of rock … but the structure “talks about the occupation of immigrants who fathered most us – their hard work of cutting stone raised us to the life we love here in Milford,” Palance said. And the way the stones were worked shows the evolution of cutting techniques, beginning with hammer and chisel, he said, and the rough cut rock also speaks to the New England character of “not wasting a darn thing. If it’s not perfect enough to sell, we put it to our own use.”

But board Chairman Chris Beer said it is the property owner’s right to do what he wants with any building on his property.

Board member Paul Amato agreed. “I’d like to see it preserved,” he said, “but I don’t own” the property, and Janet Langdell called the situation “just another example of Milford being reactive, not proactive.” The idea of tabling for six months plans that were submitted to the town in January she called ridiculous.

The townhouse plans involve two major site plans, 12 units on one lot and four on another, near the old Tonella & Sons quarry that operated in the early 20th century. It was one of about 15 granite quarries that earned Milford the name,“The Granite Town in the Granite State.”

During the two hour discussion, board members also discussed traffic, snow storage and noise, and they voted to grant two waiver requests, one to extend the 40-foot right of way by 335 feet, giving relief from the 50-foot width requirement, and the other to allow a driveway directly off the end of a turnaround.

Traffic at the intersection of Tonella Road and Nashua Street has been an issue since at least the building of the Ledgewood Condominiums.

Board members said the estimated 80-trip a day additional traffic from the new apartments is not a huge impact, but they will look to see if it warrants some sort of contribution from the developer.

In response to a question from the president of the Ledgewood condominium association, McGuire said there could be some blasting, and if the plans get conditional approval, the work could begin this season.

Anything to do with the stone house, he said “is the prerogative of the owner,” who is being generous in offering the stone to the town, and “if he feels there are roadblocks, I think that generosity would change.”

The plan was tabled until the planning board’s May 22 meeting.

The applicants are the children of Marc “Cappy” deMontigny, who developed into condominiums the stone house property on Nashua Street. The stone house is said to be the only stone building in Milford built as a residence.

According to the town history, a stone office for Tonella & Sons was built in 1913, and its crushed stone produced the base for many roads that were being paved at this time. The business continued until 1933.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.

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