Island Ave. Committee Releases Survey with New Timeline Due to Pandemic
The Island Avenue School Use Committee, named early this year to begin researching a use or sale of the Island Avenue building that is currently leased to a local private school, is putting out a community survey and re-orienting its process as it still plans to deliver a recommendation to the Board of Selectmen (BOS) on the building.
The survey, which is entirely open-ended, simply asks residents what they would like to see the building used for, and why, with space for as many as five different entries.
A new timeline would have a request for proposals (RFP) process beginning in November, and potentially a referendum early next year, Committee Chair Graham Curtis told the BOS at a meeting earlier this month.
After the Island Avenue School was closed due to declining enrollment at the end of the 2018-’19 school year, the town leased it to a local Catholic-based private school, Our Lady Of Mercy Preparatory Academy (OLMPA). That lease was renewed for a second year at a reduced rate by joint actions of the BOS and the Board of Finance, bypassing town meeting requirements due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to an update released by the town, the pandemic has altered how the committee will be handling its charge, after missing approximately two months of work time through March, April, and May. Originally, the plan had been to deliver a final recommendation by June 28.
According to the new timeline, the committee will provide another update in early October, and another survey with more specific options likely around the same time.
The committee was also approved recently for a $10,000 septic feasibility study by the BOS.
First Selectman Peggy Lyons said the town is trying to track down the heirs of the original owners of the property to get restrictions lifted from the deed, something that has been made more difficult by the pandemic. Those restrictions currently disallow the building from being used for commercial or industrial uses, according to Lyons.
“We have a lot of other priorities in our lives right now,” Lyons said. “But timing is very important on this so that the community has some assurance that this will move forward and resolve the future of the property.”
Lyons said that a referendum next year was “possible” but “somewhat of an aggressive timeline” due to other issues the BOS and town officials have been dealing with during the pandemic.
Another consideration is renewing the lease. If the BOS votes to extend that agreement for an additional year, that pushes back any other use or transfer of the property until August 2022.
Representatives of OLMPA have previously said the school would like to purchase Island and continue to use it for its school.
To access the survey on possible uses for the Island Avenue property, visit www.madisonct.org.