Town Council recommends sale of Ledyard Center School

Ledyard — The end of Ledyard Center School moved one step closer Wednesday night as the Town Council voted unanimously to recommend the sale of the property to a developer for $500,000.

Residents will vote to approve the sale in May.

Mayor Fred Allyn III said the cash offer for the property, 18.8 acres in all, comes from developer Sal Monarca. Monarca would need Planning and Zoning Commission approval for the project, but Allyn said the basic vision for the property involves a combination of retail and housing.

In exchange for two years of tax abatements, the front part of school would be converted into retail space, similar to the Gales Ferry Landing property at the former Gales Ferry School on Hurlbutt Road. The gym would be converted into a restaurant space, bar or microbrewery.

The connector between the front part of the school and the back would be demolished, and the back would be converted into age-restricted housing. Property behind the school, which currently includes a small softball field, would be developed into an additional 60 units of housing, likely one- and two-bedroom apartments.

When completed, Allyn estimated the project would result in about $100,000 per year in real estate taxes for the town, in addition to business tax revenue.

Allyn cited the development as an example of how this kind of project can benefit the town.

Allyn noted that a lot of businesses in Ledyard Center depend on sales from staff and parents from the school, and Monarca's mix of retail and residential space will help keep those businesses going when the school closes in June.

"We think it's certainly in line with what the town wants to have in Ledyard Center in terms of the developable area," he said.

Citing a public comment earlier in the evening by former mayor John Rodolico, he said there aren't many places for development in town, and this an opportunity to do it.

In addition to the offer of $500,000 from Monarca, Allyn said the town also received two other unofficial proposals, one for an alternative K-8 school for students needing a different educational experience and one for a detox facility. He rejected the detox facility outright — even without three liquor stores within walking distance of the building, it wasn't something he wanted in town — and the school would have been tax exempt.

The sale of the property is not slated to impact this year's Ledyard Fair as Allyn said he met with the fair officials and protections were written into the offer to maintain the fair for 2019.

The sale doesn't include the upper field, the pavilions, the barn and the pulling ring, so while the layout of events might have to be changed going forward, the town would still be able to host events such as the Rotary car show, Trunk or Treat and 4-H activities.

The direct impact of the closure on students who would have attended Ledyard Center School next year won't be known for another week. Superintendent Jay Hartling gave a preview of the reallocation of positions in a short presentation to the council at the beginning of Wednesday's meeting and the Board of Education is slated to vote March 20 on a redistricting plan.

A public hearing to discuss the sale of Ledyard Center School is schduled for  7 p.m., May 8 at Ledyard High School, with the town meeting to vote on the sale to be held at 7 p.m., May 15. Town Council Chairwoman Linda Davis said normally public hearings and town meetings for purchases and sales are held on the same night, but because of the scope of the sale, the council wanted to make sure residents had enough time to voice their opinions.

a.hutchinson@theday.com

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