Selectmen postpone decision on Sturges cottage lease
Published 2:17 pm, Thursday, September 16, 2010
Plans to move the historic Sturges Atkinson cottage to the parking lot of the town's recreation center on Mill Plain Road and lease it to the Chamber of Commerce for use as its office and a visitor's center are on hold so the Board of Selectmen can review an agreement with the neighboring property.
The cottage is currently located behind the Carolton Chronic and Convalescent Home at 400 Mill Plain Road. Built in the 1850s, preservationists want it saved as an example of Gothic Revival architecture. Under the proposal, the structure would be moved from the convalescent home property to the northeast corner of the parking lot at the Eunice S. Postol Recreation Center, 75 Mill Plain Road, covering about 10 parking spaces in the existing lot.
The Gardener's Cottage Committee, led by Jeanne Harrison, Melanie Marks and David Sturges, spearheaded relocation plans and the agreement with the chamber, the Carolton property's owners and the Parks and Recreation Department, which manages the recreation center.
Marks said she hopes the plans "come to fruition," after years of hard work. Harrison said the building has "such charm, such character," and should be preserved.
The Board of Selectmen on Wednesday was set to vote on a 10-year lease agreement with the Chamber of Commerce.
Instead, the board voted unanimously to delay a vote after Selectman James Walsh expressed concern over an agreement between the Parks and Recreation Department and Fischel Properties, owner of the neighboring Sportsplex, to pave a parking area that would replace spots lost when the cottage is moved to the site. The paved lot would provide between 40 to 60 new parking spaces and Fischel would be allowed to use half of the spots for up to three years.
Walsh said he favors the plans to move the cottage, but wants an opportunity to see the parking agreement before voting to ensure there are no unexpected issues. The delay should not affect the timetable set to move the cottage, since the Town Plan and Zoning Commission and Representative Town Meeting also have to approve the lease. Both of those votes will come in October, following the next selectmen's meeting on Oct. 6. The Parks and Recreation Commission has already approved the plan.
First Selectman Kenneth Flatto is look for grants to help pay for relocating the cottage --likely to cost about $75,000 -- and said he would consider using town money only as a last resort.
Carmen Tortora Jr., owner of the Carolton property, has delayed expansion plans to allow for the cottage to be moved. But Marks said that Tortora wants it off the property by the winter. He has told the committee he will donate $20,000 to help with the move, but only if the town matches it. Flatto told the cottage committee that he would prefer to see private donations and grants cover the cost.
Patricia Ritchie, the Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, said Harrison brought the cottage to her attention as a possible office for the business group earlier this year. She said it would be a "huge, huge bonus," for the chamber to have an office like the cottage. She said group has been located at 1597 Post Road for years in a second-floor office, but few know where it is.
The cottage was used by a gardener and caretaker named Atkinson who worked for Jonathan Sturges, a member of a prominent Fairfield family. It has been a six-year process to formulate a plan to move the cottage, which included consideration of other sites such as the commuter lot on Mill Plain Road, Roger Ludlowe Middle School and Fairfield Ludlowe High School.