Sharon considers lease proposal for 99 North Main

SHARON — Envisioning future improvement of the former Community Center building to serve as affordable housing, the Board of Selectmen discussed three options at their regular meeting on Tuesday, March 26.

Members of the Sharon Housing Trust were present to discuss the draft of a 75-year lease agreement between their organization and the town, although discussion widened to include options whereby the town might sell the building to the Housing Trust, or simply make it a gift.

The town presently owns the three rental apartment buildings adjacent to the Community Center building that stands at 99 North Main Street, west of Sharon Center School. The three adjacent town-owned apartment buildings are at 91, 93 and 95 North Main. Under the plans, the four rental housing apartment buildings would stand on one footprint of land.

The Housing Trust has proposed through public meetings that the former Community Center be converted into four affordable apartments, offering several advantages, including proximity to shopping and to the school for young families.

To make progress with design phases and funding applications, the Housing Trust must demonstrate, however, that their organization has control of the building at 99 North Main.

“We are interested in converting the building, but we need site control,” said Larry Moskowitz, representing the Housing Trust.

To pursue funding applications through the state Department of Housing (DOH) or to apply for a state Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), town administrative involvement is necessary, although there is no financial obligation for the town. The DOH requires that the Housing Trust have site control; the CDBG program does not.

“There is no obligation on the part of the town. A town official just needs to participate in the project,” said Bob Whelan, Housing Trust member.

First Selectman Casey Flanagan, exploring alternatives to the lease arrangement, asked what incentive the town has to hold on to the building and what liability might the town face by holding on for the long life of the lease.

“In recent years the town did not want to give up the building adjacent to the school,” former selectman Dale Jones recalled, “but there were not a lot of options for its future use. Now the times have changed.”

Continuing discussion, Flanagan asked the selectmen whether they want to pursue the lease or do they want to counter with another idea.

Selectwoman Lynn Kearcher leaned toward favoring a lease feeling that the project represented a point of town pride. Selectman John Brett inclined toward selling the building to the Housing Trust. A third option to donate the building to the Housing Trust was briefly considered.

Flanagan indicated that he would confer with Town Attorney Randall DiBella about the lease agreement and other options that might be possible.

Committees formed

“As the town has gotten bigger, the town garage has gotten smaller,” Flanagan said, joining with the selectmen in unanimously voting to form a six-member building committee to study the construction of a new town garage.

The vote was also unanimous to form a 17-member Long Range Planning Committee, an advisory group that will evaluate and prioritize immediate and long-range issues facing the town.

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