Council Tables Selling Conte Building To Eli's for $200G

The restaurant wants to either use it to expand its business or its parking lot, depending on who you talk to.


As expected, Eli's on Whitney wants to purchase the town-owned Conte Building - formerly Joseph A. Conte Jewelers - located next door to the restaurant.

And as expected, some on the Legislative Council question the wisdom of selling the prime piece of commercial property during one of the worst times the market has seen in years.

When the issue came up Monday night during the council's Planning and Development Committee meeting, there was no resolution and the issue was tabled until next Monday, when the full council is scheduled to meet.

By then, the cost of additional mitigation needed on the run-down building that will be demolished will be known, Chief Administrative Officer Curt Balzano Leng said.

The town purchased the building at 2384 Whitney Ave. in October 2008 for $296,200 from George Reilly, the former owner of Reilly's Restaurant, the forerunner to Eli's on Whitney.

When the town bought it, it had intended to tear it down and use the space for office trailers for the Memorial Town Hall renovation project, Leng said, but instead used the building itself for office space.

It was then though that the building could be taken down and the space used as parking for the Fire Department and the public, but instead the council decided it should be sold. The proceeds have already been earmarked to fund several additional positions in the Public Works Department.

But one council member thinks selling is a mistake, especially for what price they'll be getting.

There were two appraisals done on the property, Leng said. Eli's appraisal came out at $150,000, while the town's came in at $220,000. The two sides negotiated a purchase price of $200,000, which includes the town footing the price of the demolition of the existing Conte building. That is expected to cost at least $25,000.

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"We are talking about taking a one-third loss on the property at least," said Councilman-at-Large Betty Wetmore. "I don't understand why the town is always taking a loss and it's got to stop."

If Eli's uses the site as a parking lot, it is as much as taking it off the tax rolls, she said. "How much tax money will you get from a parking lot?" she asked.

"The Fire Department could use that land for parking, and the public will need space for parking when Memorial Town Hall is done and we start holding our meetings there," she said. "I don't know why we are so anxious to sell it."

"We have a ready, willing and able buyer for the property," said Councilman-at-Large Al Gorman. The building has saved the town money as it was used for construction offices during the Town Hall renovation project, he said.

"We got some monetary benefit out of it," he said.

Exactly what Eli's wants to do with it isn't known, Leng said. "They have had some preliminary discussions with Planning and Zoning about expanding the building and about the parking lot," he said. "It could be a combination of both."

Any additional remediation costs to the demolition of the building will be known this week, Leng said, and the building can be torn down in the next 10 days as part of the contract to take down the old police station buildings.

The council tabled the resolution authorizing the sale of the building but will take it up again Monday.

Thomas Alegi November 27, 2012 at 01:28 PM
Conte Building is emitting a smell in the Legislative Council chamber, as of late. This smell is turning the heads of some Hamden taxpayers and Legislative Council members, what is generating this smell coming from the sale of the Conte Building. Where is this new lengthy Town Charter when you need it?
Thomas Alegi November 27, 2012 at 01:40 PM
The Hamden Town Charter has been found, it is gathering dust on a shelf in the Legislative Council’s office.
John P. Flanagan November 28, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Tom, Try www.Hamden.com. Click government. Then click Town Charter. It's there in all it's magnificent 94 pages of interesting language; much of which is contradictory when tested against actual practice and the arguments made for the vast number of changes.
John P. Flanagan November 28, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Oh, also, some other related thoughts which I was going to post until I saw Tom's question. Barring any serious evidence indicating an emergency need for cash, if I was currently on the Council, I'd probably be voting with Betty because she makes sense. However, for future reference, when looking at taking taxable property into the public domain, everyone needs to remember that with the amount of Town property, including all the schools, buildings, parks, etc and all the "knee jerk" votes in favor of converting lands to open space over the years [always sounded good until one looked at it in the aggregate], approximately 1/3 of the property in Hamden is no longer taxable. And, as of the last time I checked, all that property was valued at around $160,000,000. But, that's before the real estate crash. So, it would probably be a lower current valuation, But, it would still be comparable when compared to current private property tax valuations or as a percentage of the whole Town.
Thomas Alegi November 28, 2012 at 05:51 PM
Mr. Flanagan you wrote some years ago,” be careful what you ask for” Mr. Flanagan your words where correct back then, as your words are correct today. “.magnificent 94 pages of interesting language; much of which is contradictory when tested against actual practice and the arguments made for the vast number of changes.” I was viewing a meeting of Hamden’s Legislative Council on one of Comcast’s Public Access Channels the other morning. When I viewed one of the funnies things that I had ever seen in all the years, I have been watching the council on TV. An un-named male council member forgot for a brief moment, that the council meetings are video recorded and the camera captures all actions above and below the council table. When this un-named male council member realized the camera was pointed in his direction he stopped stretching the upper part of his leg.. If I may suggest, to the president of the Hamden Legislative Council you can spend a very small amount of my tax money to have skirts installed on the front of tables where council members sit, for privacy reasons.


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