As reported in the December Observer, three Town boards met on November 6 for a thorough consideration of the proposal to buy an existing building at 1160 South Street, renovated and adapted for use as the Suffield Highway Garage. The Permanent Building Committee, the Board of Selectmen (BoS), and the Board of Finance (BoF) all listened to a presentation by developer Kevin Casey reporting what he had done to improve his proposal in answer to several concerns and to present the conclusion of a structural engineer that the building will be satisfactory for the intended use.
The BoF had approved the garage proposal on June 10, 2019, with the condition that a certified engineer provide adequate assurance that the building could function as a town garage, but at the November 6 tri-board meeting several members of BoF were not convinced that the condition had been met, and the BoF’s 3-3 vote at that meeting failed to approve the proposal.
Many observers believed that the tri-board vote had nixed the highway garage project. But the Observer’s December-January issue headline saying that the project was “Nixed,” was appropriate for only a month.
At the BoF’s December 9 meeting, with some different members present, the issue was brought up again. This time, the Board voted 4-1-1 that the condition was met.
So the BoS agreed on January 6 to move the project forward for full Town approval, voting to call a Town Meeting on January 15 to consider the project. The cost of the purchase would be no more than $2,400,000 plus turning over to the developer the present garage property on Ffyler Place, where the developer plans to construct apartments. The developer would have the obligation to remediate the “brownfield” hazardous material at the Ffyler Place site. The apartment project, to include Tax Increment Financing, was considered at the January 15 Town Meeting, with the actual decision to be held almost two weeks later in a referendum vote on January 28.
About 75 people attended the January 15 Town Meeting, whose agenda also included a proposed transfer of certain funds for the Town’s Street Light Acquisition and Retrofit Project. After quickly tabling the transfer for lack of the required Board of Finance approval, the meeting heard detailed, illustrated presentations by First Selectman Melissa Mack reviewing the financial benefits of the new garage and by Developer Kevin Casey describing the project’s elements, including a few new details. A full report on the project is not the intent of this Observer report; First Selectman Mack said the Town would make a strong effort to disseminate the information in various media before the referendum vote.
Moderator Ed McAnany then managed a vigorous outpouring of questions, with answers offered by Mack and Casey, followed by comments, pro and con. There were many specific questions and comments implying mostly negative feelings and a number of strong positive comments.
The meeting adjourned to the planned referendum on January 28 after almost three hours. The Observer’s publishing schedule precludes reporting the results of that referendum in this February issue.