It's a question of "What if?"

What if the New Milford Board of Education were to close Pettibone School on Pickett District Road?

What if the board were to relinquish its rights to the building and its the 16.4-acre property?

Would the property sell?

What would the best way be to market it?

Who might the buyer be? Is a buyer already in the wings?

All of these questions have been brought to the forefront since the May 27 Board of Education meeting about possibly closing the school.

The school's future clouded due to declining enrolment in town, some 200 concerned parents and other residents had packed the library/media center that evening at Sarah Noble Intermediate Sch0ol.

Two and a half hours of impassioned public comment was followed by a 45-minute discussion by board members.

In the end, no decision was reached and the meeting was recessed until a date to be determined.

Town councilman Joe Failla proposed possibly razing the 58-year-old school building and selling the property.

His sentiment was echoed by other Town Council members that night.

"What I was trying to emphasize is that, from the information I've seen, Pettibone is not a building that could be mothballed for future use," Failla said Tuesday. "It is so old and has so many shortcomings that bringing it up to code would be almost as expensive as building a new school."

Failla said, as far as he knows, there is not a buyer already interested in the parcel, which has frontage along Danbury Road (Route 7 South).

"Absolutely not. No. Not that I know of," Failla said. "What's critical in this consideration is that all of the decisions are up to the Board of Ed."

The education board will ultimately make the decision whether or not to close Pettibone School.

Then, if deciding to close the school and not keep the building for educational purposes, the board could give the property to the town.

According to the New Milford assessor's office, the town-owned, 16.4 acres, including the school building, has an appraised value of $11.39 million.

Just more than 10 acres of the original 26-plus acre parcel was purchased by the Kimberly-Clark Corporationin 2004 for $1.89 million. The money went toward the cost of the present high school.

Kimberly-Clark planned plant expansion at the time but it didn't work out. The company has since let the town use the 10 acres of fields for playing fields.

Bob Brand, a Kimberly-Clark spokesperson, said Monday the company would not speculate at this time on an interest in the remaining 16.4 acres.

"I can say that, in the event that the school closes," said Brand, from K-C's corporate offices in Dallas, Texas, "we would evaluate whether it fits into our strategic plan to purchase the site."

In 2008, a section at the north end of the Pettibone parcel where a children's playground now exists was turned over to the town by the Board of Education.

As a result, the playground would not be included in a potential sale.

Tom Pilla, a prominent developer and former town councilman, believes the 16.4 acre parcel should be rezoned to an industrial zone if a sale were to be planned.

At this time, it is zoned R-40 as residential.

"Industrial zoning would raise the appraised value of the property and make it marketable if the town decides to sell," Pilla said. "I don't think the town should go to the expense of razing the building. Leave that to the potential buyer."

Pilla said the town's retail base has already "built out" as far as it can and should. But he did not say what potential buyers might be targeted for the property.

Joe Wrinn, a commercial properties realtor from Danbury, opined the Pettibone site would be highly marketable.

"It's on a main artery with good frontage and has a traffic light," Wrinn said. "As far as a buyer, it's supply and demand. It takes good planning to find the right uses for a property to get the right person to buy."

stuz@newstimes.com; 860-355-7322