Hall heat holdup forces groups to cancel events
by Jack Deming
Nov 09, 2013 | 4306 views | 1 1 comments | 87 87 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The back of Memorial Hall. A deck will be added to hold heating and air conditioning equipment for the hall, replacing equipment that had been destroyed when water from Tropical Storm Irene flooded the basement.
The back of Memorial Hall. A deck will be added to hold heating and air conditioning equipment for the hall, replacing equipment that had been destroyed when water from Tropical Storm Irene flooded the basement.
WILMINGTON- Sitting in Wilmington’s town garage is a brand new heating unit the town is hoping to install on a deck at the back of Memorial Hall. But after a recent ruling by the Development Review Board caused consternation among the historic hall’s neighbors, the project has been put in limbo until the state’s environmental court can rule on an appeal. But as winter approaches, organizers of events at the hall have been forced to cancel.

The town’s construction plan, approved September 24 by the DRB, is to build a 10-by-30-foot deck on the back of Memorial Hall. The approved plan would use up the only 10 feet that the town owns behind the hall, providing space for a HVAC unit on the deck.

Alice Richter, manager of Crafts Inn, the hall’s abutter to the east, claims she was not notified of the meeting. Cindy Beaudette, owner of The Incurable Romantic gift shop and abutter to the west, says the plan would cause liabilities due to the lack of town-owned land on each side of the building. Town attorney Bob Fisher has filed a motion to dismiss the abutters’ appeal, and according to town manager Scott Murphy, environmental court proceedings are expected to begin on November 19.

While both sides await the environmental court’s ruling, in jeopardy are 13 events scheduled between November 14 and March 1, according to the Memorial Hall event schedule on the town’s website. While some events have been able to find a new venue, the 25th annual holiday concert for Deerfield Valley Food Pantry, scheduled for December 13, has been postponed. The event draws nearly 250 attendees as well as 10 musicians, raising upward of $3,000 and 100 bags of groceries each year. According to the concert’s organizers, the show “can and will be rescheduled,” but more important, the pantry’s shelves need to be restocked.

Deerfield Valley Food Pantry President Carol DeBarba says that the holiday season is an especially important time for the organization, and the concert has always been one of its largest sources of funding. “It will be a hit to the pantry, but it’s not like we won’t be able to function,” said DeBarba. “It is one of our larger opportunities to fundraise, and the holidays are a peak time for need, due to the other expenses around that time of year.”

The DVFP is currently looking at other options for collecting donations, including an agreement with the Deerfield Valley Transit Authority to use a MOOver bus as a mobile collection unit. The pantry also intends to use a mailing campaign to raise awareness of local needs around the holidays. “We’re doing our best to fill the hole,” said DeBarba.

The usual drop-off locations for food will continue this year at Jacksonville and West Dover’s post offices, while new sites have been added to help ease the burden. From November 11 to December 13, W.W. Building Supply, C&S Beverage, and Boyd Family Farm will also be collecting nonperishable items to fill the void, and monetary donations are welcome as well at Deerfieldvalleyfoodpantry.com.

The third annual Bright Lights craft fair has also been forced to cancel after being advised by the town to seek alternative venues. While organizer Ellie Roden says she researched five other venues, they were all booked for that day or were not in Wilmington, a factor she says is vital to the essence of the fair.

“The whole idea of these events is they are community events in town and can’t just be moved somewhere else,” said Roden. “I have no doubt it will be back next year and just as good as ever. It’s just unfortunate these things have happened.”

The craft fair features 23 vendors, with booth fees helping flood relief in the event’s inaugural year, while this year’s proceeds were to benefit Memorial Hall.

The town has shifted its strategy in recent days, filing a new application with the DRB, asking for permission to make revisions to the plan. According to Murphy, the new application will call for a small change to the plans to help resolve conflicts about the project’s aesthetics.

While Memorial Hall already features metal fire escapes, Murphy says the new application will change the deck supports from metal to wood, to help preserve the hall’s historic look, which was one abutter’s concern. A new DRB meeting has been scheduled for Monday, December 2, at 7 pm. “My feeling is, we have permission in hand for steel,” said Murphy, “but this will give the neighbors a chance to vent their concerns. I hope afterwards we can get the unit installed.”

Murphy also said the town intends to use certified mail to inform abutters of the meeting in order to avoid the problems that occurred previously with communication.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
M Gilberg
November 09, 2013
It seems that Mr. Murphy fails to realize that certain issues with respect to this Linesync conceived project won't go away, no matter whether limited revisions to the design are made or not.

Apparently Mr. Murphy, who as Town Manager, claims authority over all matters involving town property, doesn't feel the necessity for the Town or its contractors to respect the property rights of the Crafts Inn and the Incurable Romantic, or to ask the architectural firm how one gains access to a 10' strip on which to build a 10' addition short of using a left handed sky hook.

If anyone is doing a disservice to the various organizations who had made plans to use Memorial Hall during the upcoming weeks and months, it would seem to be Mr. Murphy who, in my opinion, knew or should have know of the issues involved, the inability to build from other peoples property without their consent absent committing trespass, yet chose to roll the dice at the expense of these charties and groups.

The fault here, in my opinion, does not lie with the abutting property owners but the Town, its Manager, and contractors.

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