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Deadline passes for purchase of former New London school

New London — The city’s chance to buy the former Edgerton School property as the proposed site of a future community center has come and gone, according to an attorney for property owner Peter Levine.

With the April 7 deadline for the city to close on the 120 Cedar Grove Ave. property now expired, Levine has declined to grant another extension and is now entertaining “a host of other offers,” according to Levine’s attorney, Anthony Basilica.

Three members of the City Council, despite a 4-3 majority in favor of the $350,000 purchase, were able to kill the deal by requiring three readings of the proposed ordinance and extending the final approval past the April 7 deadline.

City Councilors Efrain Dominguez, Anthony Nolan and Chairwoman Erica Richardson had voted against the deal and expressed their hesitation at approving a land purchase without a plan in place.

Mayor Michael Passero had negotiated the purchase with the intention of working with an organization such as the YMCA to build and maintain a facility on the 3.3-acre site adjacent to the city-owned Veterans Field.

Councilors were not the only ones working against the planned purchase.

Resident Daniel McSparran circulated a petition to help repeal the 4-3 council vote in favor of the purchase.

His initial attempt to gather the 342 required signatures initially fell short by 34 names.

By charter he was granted an additional 10 days, until Friday, to gather the needed signatures.

McSparran said Friday he submitted 121 additional signatures, which had yet to be certified by the city clerk.

He was confident there were enough for a successful petition. He said in total he found more than 500 people who were either against the purchase or who wanted to see it go to a citywide vote.

"We are not opposed to the community center. This is about taking property off of the tax rolls," McSparran said.

McSparran’s effort was backed by an endorsement from the Republican Town Committee.

The city would have paid $350,000 for the property with the condition that Levine pay back more than $70,000 in back taxes along with $40,000 toward a redevelopment loan.

But some councilors appeared to be perturbed by the fact that Levine, who bought the property from the city in 2010, was selling it back for the same price with less land.

Levine had sold off a small portion to accommodate a development of an auto parts store fronting Colman Street.

Basilica said he considered Levine’s offer to the city a “steal.”

“It’s my personal opinion as a lifelong resident and taxpayer that the city made an enormous mistake,” Basilica said. “There’s not an offer out there that is not significantly more than what the city was offering.”

Councilor Martha Marx, a vocal supporter of the purchase, said she was disappointed Passero would not get his chance to work on a plan for a community center and pool.

She said two of her children were swimmers and, had there been a YMCA, she would not have had to drive to East Lyme on a daily basis for access to a pool.

“So many New London kids should have the opportunity,” Marx said. “I’m disappointed the council did not support the mayor’s passion. He campaigned on it. He was elected on it. We were so close.”

g.smith@theday.com

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