Federal Lawmakers OK With Train Station Sale, Scot Andrew Pitzer, Gettysburg Times, Monday, June 8, 2009.
Federal lawmakers have agreed to cooperate with the proposed sale of the Gettysburg Railroad Station, from Borough Council to the National Park Service. Before the real estate swap occurs, the boundaries of Gettysburg National Military Park must be re-drawn to include the Carlisle Street depot. The park intends to purchase the renovated station, and transform it into a visitor orientation complex.
“Congressman Todd Platts, and Senators (Bob) Casey and (Arlen) Specter have agreed to co-sponsor legislation to include the train station in the park boundary, as soon as we’re ready,” said GNMP Supt. John Latschar. Preliminary work for the train station sale is progressing, albeit slowly. “It’s moving forward,” said Borough Council Solicitor Harold A. Eastman Jr., “but it’s moving forward at a federal government pace.”
In order to operate and maintain the two-story station, the park is seeking access to adjacent properties, owned by Gettysburg College and the CSX corporation. “We have reached an agreement with the college, and are near an agreement with CSX,” Latschar reported. “It was relatively easy for the agreement with the college.”
Previously, the minimum asking price for the station was set at $722,000, but that is subject to change. Negotiations between the park and borough are private, because real estate discussions between two government entities are not subject to the Sunshine Law. “I don’t know if there’s a timeline out there,” Councilwoman Alice Estrada said regarding the sale of the station.
“It’s in the indefinite future, so it looks like the borough will be the landlord for a while,” Estrada said. This year alone, the borough budgeted $8,970 to operate the building. Currently, the Civil War Institute Office occupies the station’s top floor. The bottom floor serves as an interpretive center, run by the National Trust for Historic Gettysburg. “For right now, I think it’s pretty revenue neutral, because there is a tenant in there,” said Estrada.
The two-story station, adjacent to the Majestic Theater along the first block of Carlisle Street, was donated by the Olinger family to the borough government in the late 1990s. Following the transfer, the municipality launched a capital campaign to restore the dilapidated structure. Federal and state grants were obtained as part of the $2.5 million restoration project.President Abraham Lincoln arrived and left town via train when he visited Gettysburg in November 1863.
Fate Of Cyclorama Suit Unclear, Scot Andrew Pitzer, Gettysburg Times, Monday, June 8, 2009.
Now that a preservation group and the National Park Service have rendered opinions in the Cyclorama case, the federal lawsuit is likely to head in one of three directions, according to Gettysburg Battlefield Supt. John Latschar. “The district court judge has the option of adopting the magistrate’s recommendations as the court decision, or changing those recommendations, or of sending the case back to the magistrate with further instructions,” explained Dr. Latschar.
“Obviously,” Latschar continued, “I have no idea which of those three will happen. Only time will tell.” The 2.5-year-old lawsuit concerns whether the park’s decision to demolish the Cyclorama building complied with procedural requirements set forth in the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. Magistrate Judge Alan Kay ruled in favor of conserving the 47-year-old building in March 2009, although he also partially sided with the Park Service, opposing the preservation group’s stance that the park violated the National Historic Preservation Act.
Objections to the ruling were due May 18, and since then, no additional paperwork has been filed in federal court. Presiding Judge Thomas Hogan has the final say in the case. If Kay’s opinion is adopted by the high court, the park will have to perform an environmental assessment of the proposed demolition, and also study alternatives, such as relocation. “That’s when we’d figure out the costs of the project,” Latschar told the park’s Advisory Commission in April.
A preservation group, The Recent Past Preservation Network, wants to protect the building, while the park wants to tear it down, and return that portion of the Civil War battlefield to its 1863 appearance. The park’s General Management Plan — adopted in 1999 — calls for the removal of the building from Ziegler’s Grove, which was the scene of Pickett’s Charge during the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. But the preservation group has argued since Dec. 2006 that the park failed to comply with federal code, by not considering alternatives to demolition. “The law clearly requires federal agencies to consider the environmental consequences of their proposed actions and potential alternatives to those actions,” said Recent Past Preservation Network Attorney Matthew Adams.
Federal attorneys believe that a six-year statute of limitations to file a civil suit expired before Dec. 2006, when the preservation group took the park to court. The park contends that the statute triggered in 1999, coinciding with the park’s adoption of its General Management Plan. The cylindrical structure once housed a 370-foot long painting depicting Pickett’s Charge. It opened in 1962, designed by internationally-renowned architect Richard Neutra, and his partner Robert Alexander. Neutra’s son, Dion, is a plaintiff in the case along with the Recent Past Preservation Network.
The painting underwent a $16 million renovation, in a project that launched about five years ago, and the artwork was moved to a new $103 million Battlefield Visitor Center. Subsequently, the old Cyclorama Center closed two years ago, and awaits its fate. The Park Service, which awarded Neutra the design commission in 1958 under the federal “Mission 66” program to improve national park facilities, wants to tear down the building as part of plans to reconstruct the landscape of Ziegler’s Grove to an 1863 appearance. It has agreed to hold off on demolition until the lawsuit is resolved.
Text and Image Source: Gettysburg Times, Railroad Station
Text Source: Gettysburg Times, Cyclorama Building Lawsuit
Cyclorama Image Source: Green Gettysburg