WEST – The Planning Board has determined that the former Bradford School building has not been rendered unsuitable for public use and has asked City Council to consider several concerns before selling the property.
In March, the City Council unanimously voted to allow City Manager Shawn Lacey to market the property, which consists of the building and 3.8 acres of land, for a possible sale. In accordance with a city ordinance, the planning committee was asked to provide an advisory recommendation for the future of the former school and its grounds.
The council is expected to discuss the property and the preliminary input it has received from the Planning Committee during a meeting scheduled for Monday at 5:30pm in the council chambers at City Hall.
The building fell into disuse as a school after the 2016-17 school year ended, after voters rejected a 2016 school transformation project that would have modernized all of the city’s elementary schools. In the intervening years, the building was gradually used by the city as office space for the city’s recreation department, which has also offered recreation programs at the facility. Some organizations have rented the facility on a temporary basis, and it has also been used for health-related purposes.
State law allows local legislatures to sell land or other property after determining that the property “has become unfit or [has] no longer used” for municipal or other public purposes.
The planning panel took up the issue of the Bradford School site and City Council’s request for comment during a meeting on Tuesday.
“All members of the planning committee concluded that the property has not become unfit for public use and unanimously concluded that the Bradford property has not ceased to be used for the public good. In addition, the board members were concerned that the facility is needed for current and future services and should continue to be owned and maintained as a property of the city,” said Planning Committee Chairman Justin Hopkins and Executive Vice Chairman Richard Constantine in a letter to the council.
The board also decided it needed more information before it could determine the “highest and best use” of the property, on which the council also sought the board’s opinion. In their letter, Hopkins and Constantine said the board will return to the highest and best use question during a meeting scheduled for May 3 and asked the council for several items, including a building stabilization plan, accounting for program and facility rental revenues, and an assessment of how the community values the property; and a statement from the Recreation Board.
“Because Westerners have an interest in all urban possessions, it is important to weigh both opportunities and unintended consequences when considering land acquisition,” Hopkins and Constantine wrote.
Elsewhere, the council is scheduled to hold a public hearing on a proposed $50 valuation for a transfer station billed to residential and commercial property owners annually. The proposed assessment is intended to address the substation’s financial operations, which often require funding from the general government budget.