Mayor withdraws plan to rezone former Pettibone school
The board was set to hold a public hearing on the use change proposal next Tuesday. It is unclear if the withdrawal kills the project, and Gronbach declined to say when and why the project was withdrawn.
The Pettibone plan has been mired in controversy for months, but Gronbach, a Democrat, continued to work on plans and said opposition was “Republican obstructionism.”
Opponents have said that the project will cost more than $225,000, which the town has allotted for it; they’ve sued the town over that money, saying it was misappropriated; they’ve complained that the Department of Health was not properly involved in asbestos-related renovations, and work was halted until the DPH cleared the site. But, throughout, the mayor said the community center plan was still feasible.
But last week the Board of Education, which was slated to move 30 school administrators into Pettibone, rejected changes made to a memorandum of understanding with the town.
The school board approved the original memorandum, which was prepared based on conversations with Gronbach, by a 7-2 vote in December. But after Gronbach told school officials he had revised the document to have the school system front money for renovations, the board reversed itself and rejected the agreement 5-0.
A lawsuit over the project’s funding is due to begin March 9, after it was postponed twice. In the suit, Republican Town Committee Chair Michael Barnes accuses Gronbach and his administration of misappropriating money from the Landfill Settlement (Waste Management) fund.
Barnes, reached by phone Wednesday night, said he hadn’t heard that the mayor withdrew the project from the zoning board. But, citing the mayor’s proposed budget which includes Pettibone renovation, he thinks Gronbach is still planning to do something with the old school.
In a Facebook post after school officials balked at the move-in agreement, Gronbach lamented the board’s decision, but did not say he was withdrawing his plans from zoning.
“It becomes another ‘what could have been,’” he wrote. “Although I am disappointed, I will explore other opportunities to occupy the Pettibone space.”
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