By Beth David, Editor
The Selectboard has decided that a solution for the Rogers School is not imminent. Any changes to the building or the site are likely years in the future, prompting the board to decide to get costs on “mothballing” the building. The costs associated with preparing the building for long term vacancy could run in the thousands. The board discussed the issue at its last meeting on 9/18, but did not take a vote. Town Administrator Mark Rees will look into the costs of mothballing the building.
It became apparent that the board and Mr. Rees were leaning towards finding a solution that keeps the ownership of the building in town hands.
The first step, Mr. Rees told the board is to mothball the building. Three other steps are necessary to get the site available for other uses.
The town needs to create or partner with a for-profit business, which will qualify to apply for historical tax credits; the town should try to get the building on the National Register of Historic Places, which will make it eligible for certain credits and grants; and zoning changes for the site, and bylaws changes to accommodate those changes will have to be drafted by the Planning Board and passed by Town Meeting.
The process will be long if the town wants to hang onto the building.
“It’s a no-brainer to mothball it,” said Selectboard member Dan Freitas.
He also told the board that the Rogers School Building Committee had heard a proposal for condominiums and house lots for the site that appealed to committee members. That committee is also hopeful about a workerspace proposal that a non-profit has suggested for part of the site.
The site could accommodate more than one use or tenant.
The original building was donated to the town as an elementary school in 1885 by town benefactor Henry Huttleston Rogers. It was the first building he gave to the town. It was used as an elementary school for 128 years, closing in 2013. Since then, the town has struggled to do something with the building.
Town Planner and Economic Development Director Bill Roth said the building has water leaking in a few places. The town needs to do something to stop the building from deteriorating.
Although there has been some interest in the building, the steep cost to renovate it have made most projects prohibitive. The Rogers Report concluded that uses discussed for the school would require several million dollars to develop.
Mr. Roth said the Planning Board could consider a “plan unit development bylaw,” that would then allow the town to create an overlay district that includes the site. The overlay district could then allow different kinds of uses that would not be normally be allowed there, or even anywhere else in town. The uses would be permitted by special permit, which would allow the PB to place restrictions on those uses.
The board will probably discuss the mothballing of the building at its next meeting.
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