Selectmen discuss Community Center lease

SHARON — Making steady progress toward developing a lease arrangement with the Sharon Housing Trust to develop the former Community Center building into four units of affordable housing, the Board of Selectmen discussed finalizing a lease draft at their regular meeting on Tuesday, April 9.

First Selectman Casey Flanagan reported that an attorney specializing in real estate law at the firm of Cramer and Anderson had reviewed a draft of the lease and offered two amendments. The Housing Trust had reviewed those amendments and had recently made small adjustments. Still being discussed is the term of the lease, whether 99 years or 75 years. Also included in the lease is a provision that In the event that the Housing Trust should dissolve before the lease ends, the property would revert to the town.

The town can require that the Housing Trust be responsible for the maintenance of the property located at 99 North Main Street, Flanagan said.

Housing Trust Board member Larry Moskowitz noted that as the Housing Trust invests in the Community Center building, the value of the improvements would be lost to the Trust under the provisions of the lease.

“It’s not uncommon for an organization to make improvements,” Trust Board member Bob Whelan said.

Parking at the site continues to be a challenge leading to suggestions toward a solution that might reconfigure access between the leased building and the neighboring rental property owned by the Housing Trust at 91, 93 and 95 North Main Street.

“Leasing was the quickest, easiest way to move forward,” Flanagan noted, having explored other options that had been suggested at previous meetings.

The lease draft will be reviewed again by the attorneys before being readied for public hearing and town meeting decision.

“I’m pretty comfortable with what I’ve seen so far,” Flanagan said. “We don’t need to keep this dragging along.”

The selectmen plan to act on the matter at the next meeting on Tuesday, April 23. If they approve the lease, then the selectmen could schedule a town meeting for May.

Grant funding is available to assist with the building’s renovation. Jocelyn Ayer, Director of the Litchfield County Center for Housing Opportunities reported to the selectmen about the availability of a possible $1M in funding through the Connecticut Community Block Grant program. If awarded, the grant would support the renovation of the Community Center building. $250,000 could be spent on each of the four apartments, she said.

The town needs to apply for the grant, Ayer explained, because the town owns the property.

“It has to go through the town,” Ayer said, adding that the application process is long.

The application must be submitted before May 31, Ayer said, indicating that a decision would not come until many months later.

The services of a consultant are needed to complete the application, Ayer noted, but indicated that her organization would pay the consultant’s fee of about $3,000.

The first step is for the Board of Selectmen to pass a resolution indicating its intent to make application for the grant, and that step needs to be taken before April 30.

The selectmen agreed to consider the grant application at their next meeting.

Improvements to the Town Hall’s internet system were discussed, resulting in unanimous agreement to seek $70,000 in ARPA funding to cover the expense.

Flanagan reported that the improvements would bring greater internet security to the building, seen as critically important.

As a result of the upgrade, the building would gain new cable and a fiber internet connection through the Connecticut Education Network, with the town paying to maintain the system. A later phase would introduce a permanent meeting system for the large Chapin meeting room on the second floor.

Flanagan said that he had reviewed three bids and chosen Yucatech of Goshen, Conn. to do the initial steps of the project, but the large meeting room would need to wait.

“We’ll have to do it in stages,” Flanagan said.

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