New Milford officials considering former school for apartment complex
NEW MILFORD — The Town Council is considering turning the current home of the schools’ central offices into an affordable housing complex, though officials stressed the plan was still very preliminary.
“It’s just the beginning of the initial process,” Mayor Pete Bass said.
Bass said several companies were interested in the Lillis Building, at 50 East St., including Dakota Partners, which built the affordable apartment complex, Barton Commons, next to CVS.
During Monday’s council meeting, Dakota Partners officials described the preliminary vision for the building, which includes a historical renovation of the old school and the creation of 15 to 20 apartments.
Two apartment buildings would be built in the back. There would be 75 units, 80 percent of which would be classified affordable.
“This level of housing is needed in town,” said Councilman Michael Nahom, adding there’s a waiting list for Barton Commons.
The developers plan to apply for the project using 8-30g, a state statue that makes it easier to build affordable housing projects by only allowing towns to reject the proposal for public health or safety issues.
A purchase price hasn’t been set on the building, but Bass said it was appraised at $1.6 million.
After the meeting, the mayor said it was important to look at all of the town-owned buildings to determine their best uses.
The council agreed to let Bass and other town officials keep the conversations going. If they progress to a deal, the sale will have to be voted on by the school board, finance board, town council and residents.
Bass said he already informed Superintendent of Schools Joshua Smith about the possibility of selling 50 East St.
School officials have been considering the building’s future for months. Last year, the school board used a recent report prepared by KG + D Architects to determine the costs of making the building more accessible. Though the building is grandfathered in and doesn’t have to meet design standards in the Americans with Disabilities Act, school officials still determined needed improvements.
Discussions about accessibility re-emerged in earnest in 2016, when the board was considering relocating central office to the John Pettibone Community Center under former Mayor David Gronbach’s plan.
Based on the report, an accessible path would have to be created inside and outside the Lillis building, including parking spots, signs, accessible doors and “vertical transportation” such as an elevator. Ramps would be needed at the front and side entrances, and accessible toilets and work stations would have to be provided.
The accessibility standards are expected to cost $1.17 million, according to the report.
Other work included adding a special valve to reduce pressure on the water entering the building, removing a rock wall and adding a fire-rated separation between the front storage room and the gym. Most of the age-related infrastructure work totaled about $2 million. Other recommended improvements total another $2 million.
Bass said if everyone agrees to sell the building, the town and schools would work together to find a new location for central offices, something the facilities utilization committee could do.
“It’s everything working in tandem,” Bass said.
Town Council agreed to continue listing the Still Meadows property, which the town bought in 1998 for $2.1 million.
In February, the council approved reducing the price to $1.6 million in an effort to better reflect market value and get it back on the tax rolls. This is $500,000 less than the original listing price in April 2017.
It is the town’s biggest property on the surplus property list at 19 acres. It is made up of two parcels: Peagler Hill Road and 73 Fort Hill Road, near the Big Y on Route 7.
One reason for the price reduction was the realization by town officials that the site actually had about nine developmental acres, instead of the originally thought 15 acres.
Voters would have to approve that sale.