Sale of historic pavilion in Washington on hold
A potential sale of the historic Harry O. Erickson Pavilion in New Preston is on hold while the town attorney examines documents from 1940 to determine whether the building can legally be sold for private use.
Residents were asked at a recent town meeting to approve the sale of the town-owned building to the owners of Plain Goods, a small store near the pavilion, for $140,000. Voters decided in a 117-111 vote to postpone the matter “indefinitely,” according to meeting minutes, while the town attorney researches any legal restrictions on the building.
First Selectman Mark Lyon said the issue concerns a 1940 quit-claim deed that turned the building over to the town for public use, and a town meeting where residents accepted the deed but then turned it over to the Board of Selectmen for their discretion.
He added there’s no mention of any restrictions in any records from that era.
“The Board of Selectmen wants to move this along one way or another,” Lyon said. “It’s just a matter of sorting out if there are any legal restrictions on the town.”
The building, which is more than 100 years old, has had a variety of uses, including a dance studio and a Boys and Girls Club, but has been unused for several years.
If the town attorney finds that the building can be sold for private use, another Town Meeting will be scheduled to vote on the Plain Goods proposal again.
Under that proposal, potential owners Andrew Fry and Michael DePerno would restore the pavilion and relocate their store there from across the street, setting aside a portion of the building for a visitor center. There would also be a space to host workshops.
Fry and DePerno opened Plain Goods in 2015 to sell clothing, antiques and handmade items, and have leased the pavilion for storage for the past 1 1/2 years. In a previous interview, they said their business is thriving and they have been interested in expanding to the pavilion for some time.
The Board of Selectmen and an ad-hoc committee selected the Plain Goods proposal from among three bids in March.
Several other business owners formed a group to try to reclaim the building for community use and have called the selection process unfair. The group also submitted one of the unsuccessful bids. The group did not make a monetary offer but said they had pledges for $100,000 and intended to form a nonprofit organization to restore and oversee the building.
The town has considered selling the building for a few years.
“Right now it’s an issue for the town because we don’t have a municipal use for it, but it has a cost to heat it and have the lights on,” Lyon said.
He said the selectmen know that further renovations are needed but can’t justify spending the money to do so because the town isn’t using the building. Instead, the selectmen have included requirements for the new owner to restore the exterior.
“We are sensitive that it is a landmark for the village of New Preston that needs to be preserved,” Lyon said.