The Southington Town Council voted unanimously Monday to seek requests for proposals, the third such time the town has gone through the measure, but will restrict the number of apartments built in the 100-year-old building or limit it’s use to commercial office space. Additional development on the property would also be restricted to R-12 use.
“I need to thank the council for reconsidering,” said Dean Zubko, a neighbor of the property who helped organize residents in September 2013 after a 30-unit proposal came before the council. “We are pleased with the effort to maintain our quality of life and hope this will lead to a more reasonable proposal.”
The 100-year-old former schoolhouse and Board of Education building has remained vacant since 2012 when the school administration moved to their new home at the Southington Municipal Center.
The town initially received no requests for proposals in an effort to sell the building but went back to bid in June 2013 after receiving inquiries. Two bids were received, including one that would have led to the development of a private-run lower income senior housing containing at least 30 units and requiring a full renovation and expansion.
Residents, over 60 strong, approached the council with concerns regarding how a bustling development would impact the area and quality of life, leading the council to develop a bipartisan committee to explore regulations, Southington Town Attorney Mark Sciota said.
After months of discussions, the town developed a plan that would restrict development of the area, preventing issues that would impact quality of life, Sciota said.
“If proposals come in, they must maintain possible office use with land remaining as residential or develop the building with restrictions,” Sciota said. If the building remains the same, we are requiring an elevator shaft be put in and limiting space to two apartments per floor.”
“All proposals must receive approval from the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission,” he said.
As part of the restriction, the three-floor building would be allowed to house a maximum of 12 apartments, with both residential and commercial use subject to meeting parking requirements. After that, officials said, the remaining space would be allowed for development of single family or duplex houses, provided the proposal meets town regulations.
Sciota said the town would “advertise in at least as many outlets as we used last time.” The request for proposals is likely to be advertised in the next couple months.
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