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Tentative agreement set in sale of Waterford's Cohanzie School

Waterford - The town has a tentative agreement with Centerplan Companies to sell the Cohanzie School property for $1 million to the Middletown-based construction and consulting firm.

The firm is interested in building a market-rate apartment complex on the property, according to First Selectman Daniel Steward.

Centerplan projects have included luxury residential developments, stores such as Family Dollar, and construction and renovations at institutions of higher education including Wesleyan University, Quinnipiac University and Stone Academy.

The Board of Selectmen voted Tuesday to postpone action on the agreement that would give the firm the option to buy the property, pending further public notice of the vote. The board plans to vote on the option Aug. 12.

Town Attorney Robert Avena said that, because the town previously had an agreement to sell the property to another firm, some approvals necessary for the town to agree to an option may already be satisfied. He advised the board to postpone the vote as a matter of caution.

The board plans to give notice of the vote in the newspaper and Avena said the town may also post a sign at the school stating that the town will vote on offering Centerplan an option to buy the property.

An agreement with Centerplan will have to be approved by the board and the Representative Town Meeting. Avena said that the Planning and Zoning Department may also need to grant an approval stating that the town does not need the property.

If the option is approved, the town would be obligated to clear the property of contaminants such as asbestos before the sale could occur.

Cohanzie School was left vacant in 2008 as part of a building project approved at a 2002 referendum that consolidated the town's five elementary schools into three because of declining enrollment and increased operational costs. The town listed the school with a real estate agent about six months ago.

Some residents have opposed the town's plans, including the "Save Cohanzie School" effort started last year.

Town officials have said that they hope a purchaser will be able to use at least some sections of the school building, the oldest of which dates back to 1923. Representatives of Centerplan were not at the meeting Tuesday.


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