SWANTON — The village board of trustees signed a purchase and sales agreement with Gordon Winters at the board’s regular Monday meeting, officially transferring ownership of the Memorial Building, which Winters plans to develop into an Ace Hardware store.
The deal is not done, though. Residents have 30 days to petition the agreement, which is a public document available in the village office, a fact board members stressed at Monday’s meeting.
The board also discussed the possible tax effect should voters approve the purchase of one or two new fire trucks for the Swanton Village Fire Department.
Board members defended the Memorial Building sale, which opponents have criticized based on an online campaign alleging a lack of publicity on officials’ part and lamenting the move of the Swanton Teen Center.
The teen center’s managers, Dr. Chip and Mary Chiappinelli, have said at board meetings and in a Messenger interview that the move will restart the teen center’s development, which they said slumped in the wake of the 2008 recession, and stressed that municipal officials, and Winters, are actively working with the center to ensure a healthy move. But a group of Swanton residents have disregarded the Chiappinellis’ comments, and accused the village of pressuring the teen center into compliance.
“We know there’s some opposition out there to the terms we’ve made,” village president Neal Speer said, at Monday’s meeting, “but we believe that this is the best [possible agreement], and so far every committee that this has come before agreed with our decision to go with the Winters’ proposal.”
Beside the village board, the town selectboard and developmental review board have both reviewed and approved Winters’ plans. Only one person spoke in opposition of the plans during the meetings’ public comment portion, resident David Winchester, who attended one selectboard meeting. At that meeting, Winchester said he felt the Winters agreement had not been adequately publicized. Town officials explained that the village controlled the sale, and that the town had no direct involvement in the negotiations.
Village board members explained at the board’s Monday meeting that village officials negotiated with Winters for about a year prior to the sales agreement. Winters and the village announced the tentative arrangement in April, which the Messenger reported in a front-page feature.
“Our downtown’s been shrinking,” village trustee Chris Leach said, at Monday’s meeting. “With a beautiful new Ace Hardware store downtown — I guarantee you that will spur other retailers to come forward.”
Winters told the board he has already received calls from people looking to rent spaces on the renovated property since the deal’s heightened publicity in the past month.