Special Town Meeting
Airport Hangar Building – Change of Use
December 14, 2009
First Selectwoman Derrylyn Gorski called the Special Town Meeting to order at 7:11 p.m. There were approximately 115 in attendance.
The First Selectwoman called for nominations from the floor for a Moderator. There was a motion by Jean Swanson, duly seconded to nominate Steven Thornquist. There were no further nominations.
Moderator Thornquist stated that the meeting tonight is about the airport hangar and that those speaking tonight must speak to the topic at hand. The building as it stands is relatively dangerous and something must be done with it soon.
John Garcia, 190 Fairwood Rd – The flyer sent out and all information published mentions only one thing – the airport hangar. I make a motion to focus solely on the hangar. The motion was duly seconded by Sue Corrone.
Moderator Thornquist interjected that in the context of the airport hangar the plan of the airport property may also be discussed.
There was a voice vote against keeping the discussion solely on the hangar. There was a majority of Nays.
Moderator Thornquist read the call of the meeting. He then introduced Art Slicer, Chairman of the Airport Hangar Study Committee.
Art Slicer, Chairman of the Airport Hangar Study Committee & Airport Hangar Steering Committee - We had a feasibility study done and on the basis of that study it was decided by the committee to preserve the hangar. The committee talked about destroying the entire building, restore it as it is or renovating it as a historic landmark. Members of the Airport Hangar Study Committee are Art Slicer, Dick Van Horn, representing town finance, Ruth Beardsley, Park & Recreation, Pat Martin, Dave Tressel, Planning & Zoning; Bob Kelley & George McDonnell, representing the Lions Club; Tony Lebedivitch, representing the Bethany Athletic Association; Bob McSherry, representing the Fire Department. The committee decided that the best use of the hangar is community recreation and activity. Since the beginning we talked about not taking tax payer money but doing fundraising, grants, private grants and donations from corporations. We hope that you will agree with us that this is an outstanding use of 120 acres of our property to be used in an appropriate manner and safe environment. Art then introduced Alan Plattus.
Alan Plattus, Director of the Yale Urban Design Workshop said that the committee started in 2005 and the Yale Urban Design Workshop started working with them shortly thereafter in 2006. We have been working in towns and cities in Connecticut for almost twenty years. We have worked on town plans and daycare centers – all sizes and types of facilities. The airport is an extraordinary site and it still has some aspects of its original character. We spoke about all aspects of the project – the site, parking, access and a range of attractive possibilities for uses of the site while still preserving and enhancing the original plan of the building. We are in consultation now with Ames & Whitaker Architects who are involved more with the technical aspects of the project.
Larry Corrone, 35 Russell Rd – How much has it cost and who is paying you?
A. Plattus - We were paid for the first year. It was not very much money.
First Selectwoman Gorski – They were paid $25,000 - $27,000 as a nonprofit organization. The money was paid out of the airport fund. The funding was approved by the Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance.
Greg Ames – Ames & Whitaker, Architects, P.C. - was introduced to give a power point presentation. He showed a site plan. Parking was limited to what would be needed on a daily basis so as to keep the building environmentally soft. There are approximately twenty-eight spaces. Total building is a little over 6,000 sq ft. The toilet and kitchen areas are configured so that when the building is not being used, they can be open to the exterior for outside events. The plan includes a conference room, a visitor’s gallery and on the roof is a reviewing stand. A structural engineer was brought in to see how much of the existing structure can be used, a mechanical and electrical engineer so that we can be consistent in the costs we are projecting, and an environmental engineer for asbestos and lead paint in the building. We are looking into making the building green. The south end of the building can use solar energy. The west side has a roof overhang – we are looking into putting in some deciduous trees. Once these details are fine tuned, then you think about solar collectors, geothermal heat or hot water collectors.
The Moderator asked for questions or comments from the floor.
Melissa Spear, 360 Amity Rd – Planning & Zoning Comm. - What percentage of the existing building will we be able to retain and what would be the relative cost to raise the existing building and build new?
G. Ames - The slab is sound. The vault itself has a great deal of rust at the bottom, there are leaks and there is asbestos. By taking it away we dispose of the asbestos without going through an intricate remediation process. We start to save money. By putting in a new shell, it would be sound, insulated and finished. That is actually more economical than trying to restore the metal that’s there.
Tom Hunt, 809 Carrington Rd - What is the life expectancy of a new shell?
A. Plattus - There is a 30 year guarantee on a new shell with insulation already applied
Mark Scott, 49 Tuttle Court – Would like to see open space preserved. The Airport Hangar is a piece of history. I think the facade of the building is what keeps its character. There is a balcony on the south face that takes away from the structure. I’m wondering why it is there?
G. Ames - It will not be there. It was taken out. It will actually be an open area – all glass - with activity going in and out. The current structure is not insulated but a new shell can be insulated and we will do so. It will be a four season building.
Aileen Magda, 28 Deerfield Lane – How much would it cost to operate the building without the geothermal and other environmental plans just for heating, cooling, etc.? What would be the cost to keep it as a hangar and historical building?
A. Slicer – to restore to original state it would not be functional as a community center and recreation facility. It wouldn’t incorporate the food, bathrooms and storage areas that are necessary for sports activities that are currently played there and the inside activities would have to be eliminated. If that is the direction that we are going in, then I would say demolish it and move on. The cost of maintaining it as we see it redesigned, we do not know.
L. Corrone,- Has anyone pursued the actual history of the property?
A. Slicer – yes we did. Our committee researched the history of the property during the preparation before beginning the project.
L. Corrone – The original committee sat for seven years. We did a survey. 80% of those surveyed wanted the site for recreational use. It was supposed to be put in the hands of Park & Recreation to insure that it was maintained. No business could be put there. Now there is a sign – No Dogs. It seems that the property is being cut up.
Darius Iwaskiewicz, 95 Peck Rd - Is it limited to the existing structure? Would it cost much to add another 15 feet to make it more usable for certain sporting events? You can’t even tell us how much it will cost to operate?
A Slicer – Expansion of the building did come up at our meetings. There is 3,000 sq. ft. and the additional add-ons for the kitchen and bathroom facilities. You can play tennis, badminton dancing. You just can’t play a basketball game. It would be a big leap to add on additional footage beyond the original foundation. If the proposal is accepted and there is a recommendation for 50 additional feet it can be done. The facility will be open every day.
Russell von Beren, 134 Wooding Hill Rd – The question was asked how many people are serviced at the Lion’s Club food service. von Beren stated that approximately 400 are served.
David Forman, Tax Collector – I am excited about the project. It is the most visible landmark in Bethany. I think it will bring people to some of the businesses in the area. Is there a place where there will be displays of historical value?
G. Ames – yes there will be a gallery/foyer of aeronautical information and history of Bethany.
Randall Raddatz, 22 Bethridge Rd – You called it a community recreation center for the past five years. Now recently emergency shelter comes in. There are only two events where I remember having a need for an emergency shelter. There has to be some sort of technicalities or regulations or sources of water for it to be an emergency shelter. I am in favor of it as a community recreation center but I don’t want the emergency shelter aspects added to it. Why was that added in and what are the encumbrances or should we remove them?
First Selectwoman Gorski – Right now the community school and middle school are the emergency shelters in town. It already meets the requirements. It is just a temporary shelter in case of a hurricane, power failure. If it is taken out of the school and a portion of the town needs a temporary shelter, we do not have to cancel school if school has power. It is just to give us some flexibility.
R. von Beren – Are we talking about the functions that we presently have or other functions? If it is used for serving food, people will have to walk from one side of the property to another to get to the food area. This will be a safety issue. The Community School has everything for an emergency shelter. We should knock the building down and put up a plaque. We have a $200,000 Steap Grant. There are other things that are more necessary for this money – roads, guard rails. This project will need to use a lot more than the grant money. I do not want any of my money going to this project.
Ann Warner, 228 Falls Rd - I don’t hear a driving need for the use of a gathering place. I could see if it was for senior housing, etc.
A. Slicer – There is a vision for recreation & community use. The fields and buildings are being stressed to the limit with the number of children within the town. This is a large piece of the town that has not been used in forty years. It is believed with the number of families in town this could be a building where activities could be offered. The fields would also be a part of this building. It also gives it landmark history along with the other needs in the building.
Dawn Brinton, Park & Recreation Director – made a few comments about the possible uses of the hangar. Lions Club tag sales could be held inside on rainy days. Use of the hangar could open the door for some outdoor activities to be held inside. The Harvest Festival could have been held here. How many people can the building hold? 200 for a sit down event and 400 for an auditorium.
Kim Brinton, 168 Sperry Rd – I don’t think we should vote in favor of a project that we do not know the cost of maintaining. I am past president of the Lion’s Club. We donated a gazebo for the Town Hall property. There seems to be a question as to who is maintaining it. We need to know what those costs will be.
A. Slicer – We cannot project the income at this point so we cannot project what it will cost to maintain.
Paul Manger, 43 Bethmour Rd – What is the projected total cost as it was presented?
A. Slicer – $2.2 million dollars.
Andrew Liveten, 166 Carrington Rd - Horse Comissioner – Will the fields be kept for multiple uses? Yes, as it is now.
Ann McDonnell, 5 Rowe Ct – Where is the money to run the building coming from?
First Selectwoman Gorski – It will have an operating budget much the same as Lake View Lodge. There is a cost to run the lodge but we also get revenue. We charge for renting and the same would happen here.
Bruce Hescock, 160 Humiston Dr – The tag sales would not fit in the hangar.
A. Magda – We were told the money would come from donations. Where would these donations come from? Is there a time limit for gathering these donations? We already have Lakeview Lodge. We are building a pavilion there that will have bathroom facilities. How many facilities does a small town need?
A. Slicer – The hangar would be 365 days a year. The pavilion at Veteran’s Memorial Park is a summer facility for the most part. The intent is to hire a fundraiser and they will survey the community and find out how much fundraising is possible. How much can people give? Where can the money come from in different entities such as grants, foundations, private donations or events. If the fundraiser says we can not raise that kind of money then it’s over. If they say we can we will go forward with the raising of the money.
Gary Ross, 153 Fairwood Rd – The only part that we can salvage of the hangar is the slab? Is it 6,000 sq ft?
A. Slicer - Yes. The building is 3,000 sq ft as it stands. With the additions, it will bring it to 6,000 sq ft.
Karin Hackett, 328 Wooding Hill Rd – How can we be supportive if we do not know the cost to maintain the project? I work for a large organization that manages large facilities – events, convention centers and arenas and we would never go into a project like this unless we had included in our feasibility study what events would be coming in, what we charge for them and what the expected revenue and income would be. Without having an understanding or estimate of that I don’t see how you can expect the townspeople to be supportive. Will there be full time employees to run it, custodial services, etc.?
A. Slicer – With Veteran’s Memorial Park and Lakeview Lodge we did not have a projection of the revenue and income. It changes on a daily basis. We didn’t do it there and I don’t know how we can do it here.
Will Brinton, 168 Sperry Rd – There has been reference to Lakeview Lodge. I have some personal knowledge. I worked on it slightly. I believe (from memory) that the cost estimates were for $100,000 for janitorial, heating, electrical, etc. The grant is for $200,000 and the project is 2.2 million dollars. If we vote on this tonight, how tied in are we to the 2.2 million dollars? Are we going to have part of the structure built and then we will have to do the rest?
First Selectwoman Gorski – With the Steap Grant we have five years to raise the balance of the money. If it is not raised you do not go forward. The use of the building must be changed from a storage facility to an occupancy facility before we can move forward. Right now we need to decide whether to start the project or reject the grant. We will not start a project we cannot finish. The 2.2 million is a fully equipped, dream facility – not necessarily what we will be doing.
Lisa Amadeo, 25 Amadeo Dr - Will we need to change the zoning at the airport and if so how does that impact the airport?
First Selectwoman Gorski – It will be a change of use for the hangar. It will not affect the airport property.
M. Spear – In the mid nineties we did have an airport study committee and a Park & Recreation Committee. We did a town plan. We looked at the property very carefully and one of the things we did recommend was that the Town of Bethany do a needs assessment in terms of Park & Recreation. We did gather a lot of information in regards to this property and its uses. I would hate to see it voted down tonight because we don’t have enough information. We need to have an opportunity to gather the information such as operating costs, potential uses of the property.
Alex Smith, 355 Downs Rd – What happens after 30 years?
A. Slicer -Do we tear it down and start over? No. The building will be there as long as you maintain it. The Quonset hut would have been there another fifty years had it been maintained. Water settled along the edges of the foundation and so now it is sagging in the middle.
Madeline Slicer, 70 Lacey Rd – When we talk about maintaining this project we are only talking about the maintenance for the building - heat, light, maintenance. We are only talking about this building.
A. Slicer – The cell tower on the airport property generated $2,500 per year and now we are collecting $25,000. That money was earmarked to be spent on that property. The money from that tower can be used to maintain the building.
Liz Appel, 11 Carriage Dr – It was a great presentation but I would like to see more information on the cost. I do not want the project voted down but I feel we need more information.
Marc Adelberg, 29 Mesa Dr – What is the cost to get a fundraiser?
A. Slicer – Most often it is on a percentage rate or flat fee. It depends on the fundraiser.
Mary Sofair, 41 Deerfield Ln – Bd. of Education – Are there any other options between doing nothing and spending 2.2 million dollars?
A. Slicer – The feasibility committee discussed everything from erasing it from the property to preserving it and putting it to community use. We worked along that spectrum. 2.2 million is the outside range – the structure could be done for $1.1 million for the shell, not including the interior.
Sharon Huxley, Chairman Planning & Zoning Comm. – I just wanted to clarify that the project came to us as a CGS Section 824 review to see if it was in conflict with the Town Plan. It is not in conflict with the Town Plan. That is not an approval or disapproval of the project.
Ken Martin, Chairman Conservation Comm.- Is the vote tonight on the change of use or are we voting on the project?
Moderator Thornquist stated that the vote tonight is simply on a change of use. It allows for more work to be done. It does not approve or disapprove the project.
A. Slicer – If the project is not approved then the building is unsafe and will have to be taken down. It will cost about $85,000 to take the hangar down.
Larry Eisner, 44 Valley Rd - Treasurer – I make a motion to table the resolution. It was duly seconded to report back with further information.
Moderator Thornquist asked for a retraction of the motion so that Ms. Warner could speak.
Eisner retracted his motion, duly seconded.
A. Warner - made a motion, duly seconded to report back with further information within six months but allow the project to move forward with the change of use as it currently stands.
All those in favor of making an amendment to the motion - overwhelming yeas.
R. von Beren – made a Motion to scratch the word emergency shelter, duly seconded.
Kris Sullivan, 783 Amity Rd – Having it as an alternative emergency shelter can do no harm. It just means that it can be used for that purpose.
L. Appel - Also, it may bring us more grant money
All those in favor of amending the motion as presented to scratch the words emergency shelter – overwhelming nays. It does not carry.
All those in favor of the main motion as amended – yeas have it.
The amended resolution reads:
Be it resolved at the Town Meeting of the Town of Bethany that the use of The Bethany Airport Hangar Building shall be changed from the current use as a storage building to a Community Recreation Center/Emergency Shelter.
Be it further resolved that the Town of Bethany shall prepare an analysis of:
a) Potential expenses and revenues for the project, including potential alternatives, and
b) Fundraising strategies
to be presented back to a Town Meeting within 6 months.
Be it further resolved that, pending approval of such analysis, said Bethany Hangar shall be renovated and restored preserving as much of the building as is reasonable and restore or replicate the existing construction to respect and memorialize the existing hangar building and its significance in the history of the Town of Bethany.
The renovation and restoration of the Bethany Airport Hangar shall be in a manner consistent with proposals of the Airport Steering Committee and design of Ames & Whitaker.
The project is to be funded through the use of the $200,000.00 Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant awarded to the Town of Bethany for the purpose of renovating and restoring the Bethany Airport Hangar.
Slicer thanked the Ames & Whitaker, Architects, P. C. and Alan Plattus, Yale Urban Design Workshop for their work on this project.
There was no further discussion. The meeting was adjourned at 9:20 p.m.
Nancy A. McCarthy, CMC