The former Joseph A. Conte Jewelers building on Whitney Avenue next to Memorial Town Hall is old, decrepit and not worth saving.
That's why the Legislative Council this week overrode by a two-thirds vote the negative referral it received from the Planning and Zoning Commission regarding demolition of the town-owned property.
Zoning commission members reported negatively on both the question of demolishing the building and selling the property on a bid waiver, rumored to the neighboring Eli's on Whitney restaurant on the other side of the building. It's also rumored that the restaurant wants to use the property to expand, one council member said, but calls weren't returned so that could not be confirmed.
The town bought the property in 2008 for almost $300,000 with the thought that it might be incorporated in the renovations to Memorial Town Hall, either to be used to access the site or as additional property. But town officials have determined that it's not needed and can be sold.
But its value has depreciated since that purchase -- a recent appraisal put the value around $200,000. Now the town wants to take down the existing building because the company on site taking town the former police department buildings has offered to do the work for $24,000, Chief Administrative Officer Curt Leng said -- a considerable discount from the $45,000 it normally would cost.
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"If the intention is to sell the property, why take down the building for someone to buy the property and not increase the price?" Councilwoman Betty Wetmore asked.
"We have to knock it down regardless of the end use" of the property because of its condition, Leng said, and having the contractors already on site gives the town the advantage of the discounted price.
"I don't understand why we have to absorb the price to take it down," Wetmore said.
"When we consider this whole situation, there are a couple of things we have to take into consideration," Councilwoman Carol Noble said. "The demolition could be to our advantage because we could want this property for other purposes -- we have said it is for sale but maybe not."
And if the town does sell the property, it can include the cost of demolition in the price, she said.
"If they want it bad enough, they will pay it," she said.
"I hope when it comes time to sell it, we don't need it for parking," Councilman Harry Gagliardi said. "That piece of property is very valuable."
"The building is an absolute eyesore," Councilman Austin Cesare said. "If we build it into the price of the sale we can recoup some of the money.
"When you look at the center of town, it's a potential hazard," he said. "It's common sense to take it down."