Litchfield News

Selectmen aiming for December vote on Bantam plan (09-06-18)

An aerial view of the former Bantam School property. Peter Tavino photo
Litchfield’s Board of Selectmen remains on target with a goal of holding a referendum in December on a plan to transfer the former Bantam School property to the Litchfield Housing Trust.
Selectmen on Tuesday fortified the goal by dismissing a request that the referendum be delayed so Bantam officials and residents can discuss potential uses of the property other than the affordable housing the housing trust would create.
The housing trust would turn the building into 14 rental apartments and would build 10 single-family homes on the 10.5 acre property if voters approve the proposed transfer.
The request to delay the referendum came from Borough of Bantam Warden Richard Sheldon in an Aug. 24 letter to First Selectman Leo Paul Jr.
“I supported the concept of affordable housing, but recognize that my neighbors deserve a community that reflects their vision,” Sheldon wrote. “I believe the taxpayers of the town would agree.”
Sheldon said community meetings will be held in Bantam to discuss potential uses for the property and reach a consensus on its use. There is sentiment in Bantam that the property should not be surrendered because of its value to the town.
Paul and Selectmen Jonathan Torrant, Paul Parsons, Jeffrey Zullo and Anne C. Dranginis all agreed that a referendum should be held in December as planned. The board has not set a date for a referendum.
Selectmen voted last year to end the use of the former school for municipal purposes at a future date. The building, according to the board, is a money pit and should be eliminated as a financial liability to taxpayers.
Under the plan to give the property to the housing trust, the Bantam post office would remain in place and the gym would continue to be available to the Parks and Recreation Department. The five town offices in the building would be moved out.
Even though a transfer to the housing trust could happen before the end of the year, the town is going to have to sink significant money into the building to repair a dilapidated heating and ventilation system before the colder months arrive, according to Paul.
A referendum on the plan for the former school would also include a vote on a plan for a new town hall or a conversion of the former Litchfield courthouse into a town hall.