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Hearings held on Mother Bailey House, Groton Estates community center

Groton — The sale of a city-owned vacant lot, proposed for a community center at the Groton Estates apartments, was voted down, after a resident raised concerns that the proposal would take away open space enjoyed by children in the community.

The City Council voted 4-2 on Monday against the proposal for the city to sell the surplus lot at 80 Nathan Hale Road and 0 Paul Revere Road, located in the middle of Groton Estates, to Groton Estates LLC for $45,000. The city also would receive an easement around Groton Estates to extend the Birch Plain Creek Trail. 

Groton Estates proposed building on the lot a two-story clubhouse facility, with no more than 2,500 square feet on the first floor and with a business and fitness center, for Groton Estates residents to use, Bryan LeClerc, an attorney representing the city said during a public hearing on Monday.

Groton Estates resident Shauntee Duzant spoke against the proposal, with some additional speakers sharing her concerns. She said she found out about the proposal when she was going for a walk and was taken by surprise. She said her two children play on the open field and interact with their peers there, and during the pandemic, families used the space for picnics.

“We don’t have a backyard,” added Duzant, who said residents should be alerted to the sale and have a vote on it. “That is our backyard.”

Resident Paul Duarte said he was in favor of the proposal because he was happy for an opportunity to extend the Birch Plain Creek Trail.

During the City Council meeting, Councilors and the mayor discussed additional ways to get the word out to residents, beyond public notices and Facebook posts, such as knocking on doors or distributing flyers.

City Mayor Keith Hedrick said Tuesday that the city is reviewing next steps and may reach out to the community and hold another Planning and Zoning Commission hearing. The proposal started in 2016 and went before the commission, but there was a delay from the owner of Groton Estates and then a delay due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mother Bailey House

The city unveiled at Monday’s public hearing the details of a proposal for the Mother Bailey House at 108 Thames St. and an adjacent parcel at 0 Broad St., but postponed a vote by the City Council. Hedrick said the city realized it needs to have a hearing before the Planning and Zoning Commission on 0 Broad St., which will be held on June 15. The proposed sale of 108 Thames St. and 0 Broad St. is slated to come before the City Council on June 21.

The proposal, which follows a request for proposals process, is to sell the Mother Bailey House and the adjacent property to a local developer, FTTB LLC, for $1, according to a mayor and City Council meeting agenda. LeClerc said the plan is for the developer to preserve and restore the house, in keeping with historical standards, for residential use. He said a requirement would be for a performance bond to be issued for $285,000 to guarantee the building would be restored appropriately, and the developer would have 15 months to complete the project.

The company also potentially could develop the adjacent property on 0 Broad St. into three duplex units, he said.

The city had declared the Mother Bailey House, an 18th century structure, surplus property after the building needed repairs but residents did not want to spend any additional city funds on the property. The Friends of the Mother Bailey House group was fundraising to restore the house and preserve Anna Warner Bailey’s legacy but the group did not raise sufficient funds.

Hedrick said the city received two responses to an initial request for proposals, but the city rejected them because they did not meet the requirements. The city then issued another request for proposals two years ago, and received three responses.

The city started working with one respondent, and the process took about a year. The city had not yet gone through items in the process, such as the purchase and sales agreement and performance bond issues, when the pandemic hit and posed a challenge. The city then went with a second respondent, but faced challenges with the performance bond and the work the respondent said it would do in the proposal versus during negotiations. The city ultimately began negotiating with the third respondent.

Hali Keeler, a member of the Friends of the Mother Bailey House and the chair under former city Mayor Marian Galbraith of a committee looking at different scenarios to save the house, said that after watching nothing happen but the paint peel, this is the best possible choice even though the group would love to have the building for a museum.

Resident and former City Clerk Debra Patrick said she thinks it’s wonderful but asked why the 0 Broad St. parcel can’t be sold for market value. She said she understands the Mother Bailey House will take a tremendous amount of money to restore, but it would be nice if the city could see a little return on 0 Broad St.

Hedrick said the city put both parcels together in the request for proposals. He said the Real Estate Committee wrestled with the price of the property, but came up with the price since the Mother Bailey House is distressed and will need a significant amount of money.

At the annual budget meeting prior to the public hearing, the fiscal year 2022 budget of $19,992,489 passed with 36 people in favor, two against and three abstentions. The spending plan will keep the tax rate flat at 4.3 mills.

k.drelich@theday.com

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