To the Editor:
We represent the Local Artists Crafts Group, one of many groups that have rented the New Milford railroad station for meetings or events over the past several years.
Our group has rented the railroad station on Thanksgiving weekend for the past six years.
We have worked very hard to develop an extensive mailing list and local publicity.
Our craft fair draws people to New Milford for the shop local campaign.
Each vendor in our fair donates a percentage to Animal Welfare Society of New Milford, resulting in a good donation for the non-profit shelter.
The mayor plans to move Gallery 25 to the railroad station.
Gallery 25 is a for-profit gallery retail organization (not a nonprofit) that has occupied 25 Church Street rent free for the past three years, and is also partially subsidized by the town.
The gallery is also supposed to function as a tourist information stop; however, it is currently only open 15 hours a week.
We have no objection to the gallery. The town supports the gallery by giving them rent-free space and financial support for various events through the arts commission.
Indeed, we support the arts. The more art in town, the better for the community.
However, we do object to the mayor moving them to the railroad station, a public space available for rent that is currently not zoned for a retail shop.
In a resolution by the Board of Selectmen in March 1984, it is stated that the space shall be “dedicated to community use, and that any plans . . . be made with the public’s best interest in mind,” thereby precluding its use by a singular commercial enterprise.
If the designated use of the railroad station is to be changed, it can only be changed by the Town Council.
We don’t feel the railroad station is the best place for a for-profit group that occupies town-owned space rent free and is currently only open 15 hours each week.
Moving the gallery there means groups that meet there need a new venue: Daisy troops meet there as do the dog park people; the Apostolic Church holds services, Bible study and other events there.
The arts commission holds concerts there.
Many groups use it for public and community events, as it was originally designated to be used.
It should not be available to a commercial retail gallery.
We ask the question: how does a retail gallery constitute “public use?”
We therefore ask that if the town still wants to fund a retail gallery, the Town Council consider moving the gallery to a different space — perhaps one that will be vacated when various town agencies move to Pettibone — and continue to have the railroad station available for the community and the public use, as was originally intended.
Local Artists Crafts Group