No Final Decision made Wednesday
By John Fitts
While selectmen took an action Wednesday that could pave the way for the grange building in North Canton to be returned to the state association, members held off on deciding its ultimate fate.
In September of 2013, the town accepted the building as a gift from members of the dissolved Cherry Brook Patrons of Husbandry Grange #210. Earlier that year, selectmen in place at the time, had accepted the building by a 3-2 vote.
In recent months, the current Board of Selectmen has grappled with whether to keep the 534 Cherry Brook Road building for community use or give it back to the state grange association.
Current estimates for the work needed at the grange are nearly $145,000. With an offer of help from Boy Scout Troop 177, the town’s cost for necessary repairs and code work, would drop to approximately $107,000. Abatement and required bathroom work/additions are two of the biggest costs. Additionally, town officials said the annual costs at the building are approximately $4,500, a figure that would go up to $11,600 if the building were to be rehabilitated.
The assessor’s office card lists the appraisal value of the building and its nearly five acres at $395,386, with an assessed value of $276,770 but officials said that in its current condition they believe it’s worth much less. Under the agreement from the grange, the town can not itself sell the building.
On Wednesday, Canton Chief Administrative Officer Robert Skinner reviewed options with the Board of Selectmen. If it’s given back to the state grange, the organization would sell the building, keeping the proceeds in escrow for 7 years should the dissolved grange or another group wish to re-establish.
Selectmen were intrigued by the idea that if the state grange sells the building, either soon or years into the future, it would consider partially reimbursing the town for some of the costs it has incurred – or would – fixing up the building. So far the town has spent $9,000 on a roof and has received donations for some other work.
Skinner did say the grange still prefers the town keep the building for community use.
“It’s not something they were looking to do,” Skinner said. “I think they prefer the town keep it, or move forward.”
Another option would be that the town could transfer the building to a civic or community group with the requirement that it revert back to the town when no longer used for that purpose.
On Thursday, Noel T, Miller, President of the CT State Grange, confirmed that the organization discussed that possibility.
“The Connecticut State Grange has had discussions of Cherry Brook Grange Hall, and we are willing to allow the town to let the hall be used by other groups as long as a reverter clause is included that will revert the property back to the State Grange if the town does not wish to keep the hall under town ownership,” he wrote to Compass, adding that he could not comment further at this time.
The Boy Scout Troop, however, feels taking over the building is beyond their means, Skinner said Wednesday night.
Selectman Beth Kandrysawtz asked Skinner if there was perhaps a way to gauge whether other groups might be interested.
On Wednesday, selectmen did vote to get a Planning and Zoning referral, which along with town meeting approval, would be required steps toward letting the building revert back to the state grange.
However, selectmen said that the vote didn’t mean they would necessarily ultimately go that route.
One thing that is clear is that members largely agree the town needs to fix it or give it back, and not leave it to the elements.
“What I don’t want is to continue to let it sit and there and, quote, unquote, rot,” said Selectman Tom Sevigny.
“As a town asset I wouldn’t be comfortable having it sit there deteriorating,” First Selectman Leslee Hill added.