The decision by the Historic District Committee to approve the demolition of the Chestertown Armory has been rescinded and will be addressed at their next meeting on December 7, 2022.
At Monday Night’s town council meeting, Mayor David Foster reviewed the history of the College’s acquisition of the Armory, the environmental assessment presented to the Town Council and Historic District Committee.
Because a procedural error made by the HDC—a 25 day public review period—and a question on whether there was a waiver of the review period, the referral for demolition is now back on the HDC’s desk.
Ward 1 Councilman Tim O’Brien pushed for clarification, asking “Just on that one procedural error of not giving a waiver and not respecting the 25-day review period, does the nullify both our vote the Historic District Committee vote, or if this that a great enough error that we have to review it.”
Foster said that the town council had not given a permit for the structure’s demolition and that the process required plans for a new building before granting a permit.
O’Brien raised an additional question about the property’s covenant clause in the, an agreement between the Grantor and Grantee, that “property shall be used solely for governmental and/or education purposes, said governmental and/or educational purposes hereby being defined as (a) government businesses and/or office and/or (b) college and/or university uses. This provision shall be a restrictive covenant running with the land and binding on the Grantee, its successors and assigns.”
The question becomes: is the covenant clause in the transfer of the Armory from the State to the Town carried from Town to Washington College.
Barbara Jorgenson, Vice President of Kent County Historical Society, told the Council that the Historic District Commission had not been informed about the covenant clause and the procedures from College to HDC and town council had not been transparent.
Foster said that, in retrospect, the Council was not as transparent as it could have been. “I want to emphasize that there has never been any intent to hide something.” He also mentioned that the original HDC’s agenda listing of the Armory’s proposed demolition by it Cross Street’s address, although standard practice, did not inform the public the property was the Armory.
“I would really take issue with the idea that there was any intent anywhere along the line to mislead in this course. There was a procedural error, and we will do everything to correct that and move forward,” Foster said.
In a copy of an email given to the Spy and sent to the State of Maryland Military Department and Board of Public Works, Jorgenson asked “if they been informed of Washington College’s efforts to terminate this covenant? Are they aware of the interpretation of “college and/or university uses”? Do they agree with either a termination or this interpretation?”
Richard Grieves, a member of the 2016 citizen’s committee “Save the Armory” said that many opportunities to preserve the structure had been offered, but the constant flooding without maintenance has left the building unrecoverable.
“I get the death of a building is a big deal, but what you’re fighting for, you’re fighting for a tombstone that will sit there for the next fifty years and not be used…you can fight; everyone in this town can fight, but what you’re fighting for is zero because there isn’t enough money with anybody to fix this armory.”
This video is approximately thirteen minutes in length.