Year in review: Sale of old courthouse tops in the news
As the sun sets on 2017 in Litchfield, it's time to look back at the top news events in town during the year.
Heading the list of important news occurrences was the purchase of the former Litchfield County courthouse by the Greater Litchfield Preservation Trust on Oct. 31. The GLPT quickly issued a proposal to convert the landmark building into a town hall to replace the small and outdated current town hall.
The Board of Selectmen has expressed interest in the idea and is due to consider it as the new year unfolds.
Another large development in the center of town was the opening of the former Litchfield County Correctional Center as a commericial, retail, office and residential building. The structure has undergone a massive renovation by its owners, Russell Barton, Susan Stone, Robert Myers and Harriet Saltzman, and has become a leading example of what can be done to repurpose a building.
In politics, First Selectman Leo Paul Jr. rolled to an easy victory in the November election and is leading the town for an eighth term. Selectmen Jeffrey Zullo and Paul Parsons also earned new terms, as did Diane Knox. Knox, however, died Dec. 18 after a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer, leaving selectmen with the responsibility of filling her seat. Selectmen are likely to appoint Anne C. Dranginis of the Board Finance to fill the vacancy when they meet on Jan. 9.
Selectmen and the Borough of Bantam are also keen on the idea of turning the former Bantam School into affordable housing and building several units of affordable housing on the grounds of the old school. The project would be administered by the Litchfield Housing Trust. Selectmen and Bantam officials are slated to resume discussion of the idea in the new year.
June saw the opening of a new Stop & Shop in the Village Green plaza. The new store has been well-received and with its two entrances and exits has alleviated traffic congestion on Route 202.
In other news, the long legal battle between the Litchfield Historic District Commission and Chabad Lubavitch of Litchfield County ended with a federal judge declaring that Chabad could build a smaller version of its planned synagogue on West Street.
It was an active year on the business front locally, headed by the renovation of the hugely-popular Bantam Market. Owners David and Deb Brenner reconfigured the inside of the store to make it easier for customers to stroll the aisles and are wrapping up a facelift of the exterior. With its selection of gourmet food items and everyday household food, cleaning and personal care products, the store has developed a large following from Bantam, Litchfield and beyond.
Stop & Shop's old home on West Street will become an Ocean State Job Lot this year. The discount retailer announced plans to move to Litchfield in October. On West Street, the former Workshop space was finally filled, by Jeffrey Lawrence Estate Jewelry, the R. Derwin Clothiers men's and women's shops are now in one location, and Bohemian Pizza tore down its old building and built a new one.
The Litchfield Athletic Club, considered Litchfield County's finest fitness faciity, celebrated its 20th anniversary under the ownership of Alan Landau.
In Morris, First Selectman Thomas Weik scored a victory in the November election and has his sights set on resolving long-simmering issues between the town and the fire department. The town is also in the midst of a protracted effort to pass a budget for 2017-18, as referendums have rejected three proposed budget since June.
On the business front in Morris, residents were shocked to learn that a Dollar General store would be coming to town. The store is nearly built and is expected to open early in the new year. Morris also saw the opening of Bella Luna gift shop and the closing of the Cardinal Grill after two years.
Below, the Dollar General store under construction in Morris.