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Demolition of Old Town Hall Seems Imminent

The decision to demolish the Old Town Hall was referred back to the First Selectman.

 

Only one commissioner from voted against the demolition of the Old Town Hall. A motion was made to refer the decision back to the First Selectman, who made many arguments in favor of removing the building. Stating that the most important issue was library parking, First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker also cited other reasons to remove the building.

 According to Knickerbocker, “In order to complete the renovation of the upstairs of the library, we have to find 60 more parking spaces.”

 He stated that if there were any other way to obtain the necessary spaces, he would love to keep the Old Town Hall.

 Tim Draper, board of finance, was the only resident who spoke in favor of renovating the building. Draper felt the building could be renovated for residential apartments and could bring as much as $15,000 in taxes into the town.

 However, Knickerbocker said that the value of the building has not been reevaluated since before the decline in the housing market, and then it was valued at $489,000. In order to renovate the building, including removing asbestos and lead from the building, the cost of renovation would likely cost $679,000. Knickerbocker added, “No builder is likely to purchase the building and spend almost twice as much to renovate it.”

 Many members of the library Board of Directors were present and Jane Bickford, chairman, offered a letter saying the board has passed a resolution in support of removing the building for additional parking spaces.

 Bickford said that the library receives 10,000 visitors a month and that people are parking at the Wells Fargo Bank and the Post Office. She said that the library is in desperate need of additional parking spaces.

 Addition reasons to remove the building were cited by the First Selectman. He said that if the building was demolished, it would add 400 gallons of water back into the sewer allocation that could be used anywhere else in the town. The cost of the demolition would be paid by a STEAP grant that the city had already obtained, and there would be no additional costs to the taxpayers.

 Director of Planning and Zoning, Steve Palmer, said, “The building is not being used. It's dilapidated.”

 Bob Legnard, planning and zoning commissioner, said, “We are morally and legally responsible to tell anyone about the problems with that building.”

 With that, a vote was held, with seven in favor of referring the decision back to the First Selectman, and one opposed.

laurel draper January 27, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Once again Tim has been misquoted by this reporter..what he said was that he wanted to see the town offer it for sale "as is" to a prospective buyer, so it can be kept on the tax rolls, possibly turning the building into apartments. In turn the renters would patronize the downtown local businesses. Mr. Kinckerbocker was quoted that the demolition and installation of a new parking lot would cost $198,000.00. I know personally someone who would offer $200,000.00 for the building "as is" . The $200,000.00 could be used to create a parking lot on the west side of the municipal center where the parking was originally supposed to be for the new Library.....leaving the building in tact and giving the Library a parking lot.
Bill Hillman January 27, 2012 at 10:42 PM
@Laurel, I'd suggested putting the building up on the market a long time ago, since all else is speculation, but it would seem the decision was made, and that won't happen. P&Z was likely not going to approve any plans, si a parking lot this will be.
J. P. Gallagher January 28, 2012 at 03:07 AM
The money gained from the sale of the Town Hall could be used to partially defray the cost of the recent purchase of to the Franc property which the Planning Commission wanted. We can't grow our grand list if we keep removing property from the tax rolls. The revenue that can be derived from potential taxes collected from a private owner of the Town Hall could be used to offset expected increases in the Library budget when the 2nd floor is completed. Ironically demolishing the Town Hall will only increase the commercial value of the .46 of an acre site because it would free a new owner to develop the site in a more lucrative manner. Over the last six months I have chronicled and documented the current Library parking lot numerous times at different hours of the day and have never seen the lot completely filled. In addition there are always numerous vacant parking places along Library Place, School Street and the north end of the Bank Parking Lot which use was negotiable in the past but never pursued. The Library Board made a promise to the voters of Bethel to get the new Library passed. They should honor that promise.
Dan Gaita May 31, 2012 at 01:28 PM
It is unfortunate that the voters are not being given an opportunity to decide on this.
--- May 31, 2012 at 01:54 PM
Unfortunate, indeed.

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