Alice Richter, manager of Crafts Inn, says that she did not receive a notice from the town and was therefore unable to attend and be an interested party, something she says she would never miss. “I’ve been here for 30 years,” said Richter. “I would never not go to something that affects Crafts Inn.”
Richter says that not being notified about the meeting prevented her from attending and explaining her objection to a plan that consists of a 15-foot steel deck, housing two HVAC units, its metal supports grounded in frost- and flood-proof cement. While she supports upgrading the old hall, the aesthetics of the project is what Richter is most concerned about. “I’m not against Memorial Hall, it’s more a part of Crafts Inn than anything because it was built by the same people,” said Richter. “It’s also a beautiful building, and to see a structure of those dimensions is ugly. It will not be seen by people in the front but will be by people on the Valley Trail and my customers.”
Through the appeal, Richter and Beaudette are hoping to have the DRB case reopened so there can be conversation about the plan.
According to town manager Scott Murphy, who is also manager of town-owned properties including the hall, letters were sent to all abutters, a notice was published in the newspaper, and notices were posted in three public places in town. On October 1, town lawyer Bob Fisher filed a motion to dismiss the abutters’ appeal, saying the public was properly notified of the hearing. Murphy says the town is not legally obligated to use registered mail for notifying residents of meetings.
The HVAC unit is the town’s only option for putting in a much-needed heating system, according to Murphy. During Tropical Storm Irene, flooding in the basement of Memorial Hall reached nine feet in some places, and destroyed the previous unit. “Our options are limited” said Murphy. “We can put it where it’s designed to be, which allows for ongoing use of property under the structure, or put it in the basement and elevate it. We try to keep nothing of value there now, and I doubt any insurers would cover the unit being down there again.
“What we’re hoping for is, at the conclusion of the legal process, we can sit down and work something out, because we want to be good neighbors,” said Murphy.
But one neighbor, Cindy Beaudette, sees the project, along with the majority of work done on the exterior of the building, as a personal liability. While the town owns the building, it does not own the land to the east and west of it, and only a 10-foot setback to the rear. The front lawn of the building is also considered a right of way for both the Crafts Inn and Incurable Romantic, and used to be the entry point for trucks servicing the building. According to Beaudette, the lack of setbacks causes a dangerous situation for her as a property owner.
“If snow comes off the roof and kills somebody, or their car is demolished, or someone falls from a ladder, it’s my problem and my liability,” said Beaudette, who used to chair the Memorial Hall committee. “The town is increasing the liability by building something that has to be serviced in the back and has no way to service it without traversing my and Crafts Inn’s property.” Beaudette was unable to attend the DRB meeting for personal reasons.
Technically, service trucks approaching the proposed area of the HVAC deck cannot reach it without entering Beaudette’s property, which includes a portion of the parking lot that stretches to Crafts Inn in the rear.
The problem goes back more than100 years when Memorial Hall was sold to the town, but not the land to the east or west. When Beaudette acquired her building, she says she also acquired an agreement that allowed Crafts Inn to rent five parking spaces behind Memorial Hall.
Those spaces will be under the proposed HVAC unit when it is installed. A gridwork was installed under the grass in the front of the building as well as a fence and gate, which Beaudette says closed off the right of way along with the use of the front of the building as its service entrance. According to Beaudette, workers on site use the Incurable Romantic driveway, without realizing it is part of her property and not the town’s.
Most recently, construction vehicles showed up to deliver building supplies for the project, according to Richter, causing concerns that cars would be damaged by a boom truck.
But Beaudette is also concerned about the town’s assertion that the HVAC deck would not be an addition to the building or change its blueprint. Joseph Cincotta, the architect of the project, told the DRB at the meeting in August that the unit was nothing more than a mechanical accoutrement, not an addition. “Not by any stretch of code is this an addition,” said Cincotta. “If the air-conditioning unit was on the ground as they often are, it would not be considered an addition, so if you choose to be conservative and more restrictive that way it would be an unusual decision.”
The only right of way the town has to the building is the shared front of the building, and a small portion of land connected to the Crafts Inn property, which allows access to the hall’s basement.
The appeal process could take months and jeopardize coming events at Memorial Hall that would need heat, including a quilt show and a wedding slated for January.