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.