Lewisboro May Form Committee To Explore Onatru Property

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The Lewisboro Town Board discusses forming a committee that would oversee the property at Onatru Farms Photo Credit: Bob Dumas

LEWISBORO, N.Y. – Town Supervisor Peter Parsons would like to see the town form a committee that would be responsible for developing a plan for the use of the Ontrau Farm property’s outdoor areas.

“I am concerned that there are a variety of people with different ideas of what they’d like to do as far as landscaping and other things for Onatru,” Parsons said. “I think it would be a good idea if we were to have some guidelines.”

Parsons said his idea for the proposed committee would address the area west of the parking lot toward Elmwood Road, but not the existing athletic fields.

“It would be the core area around the house,” he said.

Organizations and town departments that Parsons would like to get involved include the Lewisboro Garden Club, the Lewisboro Library – which uses the site annually for its fair – and the town’s Maintenance Department.

Deputy Supervisor Peter DeLucia said the town would have to look at deed restrictions that were stipulated when the property was donated to the town.

“I don’t know how much we would be allowed to change,” he said. “We have to maintain its character.”

Parsons said the property contains four distinct areas: the Boy Scouts camping area, the wild area the east end that contains hiking trails the recreation area with the athletic fields and tennis courts, and the area and lawn surround the farmhouse. He said that the Garden Club has become somewhat of the “de facto guardian” of the property.

But some board members said the proposed committee could consider more than just landscaping and look at some of the buildings on the property as well.

“People have been raising money [for the property] helter-skelter and it may be best to find a way to coordinate it,” said board member Frank Kelly. “Through a coordinated effort, it may be best to do the whole park at one time.”

Board members noted that the barn on the property is in dire need of repair and that many of its shingles have been stripped. They would also like to look at the possibility of installing solar panels on its roof.

The board would also like to have input from the Parks & Recreation Advisory Council, the Sustainability Committee, as well as the town historian.
“We need to come up with some guidelines that make some sense,” DeLucia said.

Board members said they will examine the deed more closely and further discuss the idea of forming a committee at a future meeting.

The Onatru Farmhouse has been the location of several town offices, including the Planning and Building departments, and the Assessor’s Office. Last year, those offices were moved to the lower level of the shopping center at Orchard Square in Cross River so the Onatru building could be renovated and made to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Part of that project included the installation of an elevator. Town officials have not decided what they’ll do with the building once the renovations are complete.

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Comments (3)

JBSP539:

I commend the town board for considering to form a committee to explore the Onatru Property but this does not go far enough. It is time to explore all town offices and properties to improve the use and cost effectiveness of all these properties and buildings. As the "word on the street" is the KLSD is looking into the possibility of closing one of its schools this is a golden oppurtunity to partner with them for even more enhanced property and building utiliztion.
As it goes for the master plan it might be time to update that as well

Let's not let this chance pass us by!

Adam Ochs

Reeve1:

Last year the Town Board made it clear that the Park and Recreation Department would move to the second floor of Onatru Farm. Not only does it make sense to put the Parks and Rec in the Town's largest park (rather than remaining in an old building with a dilapidated heating system that is practically in Somers), more importantly, it would be a much lower impact use than what was previously there or any of the other ideas being discussed, and much more in keeping with the intent of the gift.

As anyone who remembers the controversy over the construction of the Lewisboro Soccer Club's "new" field a decade ago recalls, the Onatru gift requires that the fields around the main house be maintained in their original state as a "museum" of turn-of-the-century farming. The westernmost soccer goal, which was within 400 feet of Elmwood Road caused quite a stir.

Jon Monti:

In response to Reeve1: It may not be in the town's best interest to pay for a move of Parks and Rec to a building that is practically in Ridgefield, Connecticut. Onatru is just one of many fields that lie within our town; no matter what the members of the Parks and Rec department will have to travel by car to get to the Vista Field, Fox Valley, or the Town Park. Also, the town is required to maintain a presence in that old building you speak of. It lies within a special character district, as outlined in Lewisboro's master plan. If the town leaves this building unoccupied it sets a precedent to modify the master plan which would jeopardize all of the town's special character districts: Old Golden's Bridge, Elmwood Road, and Mead Street.

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