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December 8, 2023

Old feed store demolition takes town by surprise

Town officials say develoer did not have proper

by BARRY W. DUGAN – Managing Editor
Town officials were taken aback last week when a local landmark,
the Windsor Feed and Supply building in the old downtown, was
demolished without the proper permits.
The building on Bell Road was slated to be part of a live/work
and commercial project being developed by Harvey Charnofsky, a
Sebastopol developer. Town Planner Peter Chamberlin said all work
has been stopped on the project “until we sort this out. The
building is in total ruin.”
The old Windsor Feed and Supply building, thought to date back
to the 1920s, was not a recognized historic structure, but was of
historical value and was a town landmark, according to Steve
Lehmann, president of the Windsor Historical Society.
“It wasn’t formally recognized as a historic structure,” said
Lehmann. “But it was the site of one of the wineries that put
Windsor on the map.”
It was believed that the old train station, which was located
just across the railroad tracks from the building, had been somehow
incorporated into the feed store structure.
“It’s the last building that the railroad serviced in Windsor,”
said Lehmann. “It still had its siding, where things were brought
in and loaded. When its gone, now those tracks are disconnected
from anything.”
The Town Council and Planning Commission had approved
Charnofsky’s plans for “live and work” industrial and residential
mixed-use project late last year. But that approval was contingent
on the renovation and expansion of the Windsor Feed and Supply
building, according to town officials.
“The live-work project was designed to fit the feed store
building,” said Town Councilmember Debora Fudge, who found out
about the demolition last Friday. “That was the whole intent was to
make it match the old feed store and include it. And that is why he
(Charnofsky) got such enthusiastic support and approval from the
town council. He tore it down without a word to the town and
without a permit … that’s why I’m upset.”
Charnofsky told the Times that his demolition contractor erred
in not obtaining a demolition permit for the feed building, but
that the structure had so much dry rot it could not be saved. He
said there was a demolition permit issued for two other buildings
on the site, a fact that town staff confirmed.
“There was a demolition permit issued but apparently it wasn’t
broad enough to cover the feed store building,” said Charnofsky. “I
guess they just forgot to go in and get the permit to demolish the
feed store.”
But Charnofsky also claims that he spoke with a member of the
town planning staff, Rick Jones, about the condition of the
building’s structure and was told it would be alright to knock the
building down.
“We just didn’t arbitrarily go out there and knock it down,”
said Charnofsky. “We got permission from the planning staff to take
the building down.”
Jones, a senior planner with the town, said he recalls
Charnofsky asking him if the town would support replacement of the
dry rot supports with steel. Jones said he told Charnofsky that the
town would probably consider that.
“The assumption was he would get all his information and come
back and that would be considered during plan check,” said Jones.
“There was no green light. All those facts would have been taken
into account. Our intent was to retain the form and flavor of that
building. It wasn’t a historic preservation.”
Charnofsky said “Our original plan was to rehabilitate it, but
as we got more into the evaluation it as so deteriorated that it
was just not economically viable. I did not go in and try to
bulldoze my way through. I don’t operate that way. I know I have to
get permission. I thought I had permission. The demolition
contractor didn’t get an additional permit and we can faulted for
Town Manager Paul Berlant said he has been consulting with the
town attorney as to what recourse the town might have. “It’s not a
historic building per se, but the feed store was a landmark. We’re
looking to see what the appropriate follow-up might be. The rest of
the project was predicated on renovation of that building. The
decision might have been different if the feed store wasn’t
One option might be to require Charnofsky to rebuild the feed
store building as it originally appeared.
Charnofsky said the project as approved, would use the same
building footprint, but the “building as approved would look
nothing like what was there.”
Fudge said word is getting around about the unpermitted
demolition “and people are still upset. People are upset that it
was torn down when it was supposed to be part of the project. I’ve
been talking to people and they can’t believe that it was just torn
down like that. It was an asset to Windsor.”


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