Stonington tables decision on Campbell Grain demolition plan

Stonington — The Board of Selectmen tabled a proposal Wednesday night that calls for the town to knock down the remainder of the blighted Campbell Grain Building and then cover the cost by placing a $40,000 lien on the property.

It is expected that removing the building would help the out-of-state owner sell the site so it can become part of the revitalization of downtown Pawcatuck. In addition, town officials and Pawcatuck Fire Chief Kevin Burns have expressed concerns that the building is a fire hazard and attractive to trespassers.

“I feel we’re in between a rock and a hard place,” Selectman John Prue said. “I don’t feel the town should invest in private property but I could not live with myself if someone got hurt there.”

While Prue and Selectwoman Kate Rotella did not express any concerns about the plan by Director of Planning Jason Vincent to take down the building, First Selectman Rob Simmons was not at the meeting. Delaying the vote until the board’s next meeting on Aug. 22 will give all three selectmen a chance to vote. The selectmen then would have to seek the $5,000 for a project manager and $35,000 for demolition from the Board of Finance.

Building owner Frank DeCiantis, who lives in Virginia, had begun the demolition in 2016 and was financing the work by selling the posts and beams recycled from the building located at the end of Coggswell Street. But after 80 percent of the building was taken down, DeCiantis found that there was no more salvage value in taking down the rest, so the work ceased. Vincent said DeCiantis does not have the money to complete the demolition.

Vincent told selectmen Wednesday that the property is “deeply blighted and the source of numerous complaints” from neighbors. He said continuing to cite and fine DeCiantis would not force the work to be done or a sale to happen.

The town also has a $77,000 lien on the property for work it did to demolish a section of the building damaged in 2011 by Hurricane Irene.

That means that if the demolition plan is approved, there will be a total of $117,000 in liens on the property which the town would receive if it is sold. While the assessed value of the 2-acre site along the Pawcatuck River is $109,000, Vincent said its market value is many times that. There is no other debt on the property and the town is the first lien holder.

The town also could decide to foreclose on the land at a later date and take ownership but that would mean the town would be responsible for its upkeep, securing it and then trying to sell it.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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