PLYMOUTH - A residentâ€™s lawsuit is the only thing standing in the way of the sale of Prospect Street School, with resident Ida Marie Klaneski and her husband, Stanley, citing concerns about the plan to build apartments there.
The former school, at 19 Prospect St., was originally built in 1904 and closed in June 2008. Mayor David Merchant said that developer Craig Bothroyd, of Goshen, owner of Prospect Ridge, LLC, plans to renovate the abandoned building and construct 58 apartments on the site.
â€śThe sale of the school is being held up in court by this lawsuit,â€ť he said. â€śThe contractor wants to buy it and convert it into apartments and for some reason she (Klaneski) doesnâ€™t want this to happen. The contractor spent a year going through Planning and Zoning. He is prepared to make a $3 million investment and has done everything that we have asked of him. Planning and Zoning voted to approve his application, but she has filed motions with the court to stop the sale. The motions say that the building will impact the value of her property. Sheâ€™s living next to an abandoned, boarded up school - Iâ€™m not sure how much that affects the value of her property.â€ť
Klaneski said that she attended Planning and Zoning meetings and Town Council meetings to speak against the plan and also conducted a petition. She felt as though she had to file a lawsuit or nothing would be done. She said she does not believe that Bothroyd has done projects of this scale before. She is also opposed to the sale of the schoolâ€™s athletic field, which she said runs behind her home, and is still used for recreation. She said that cisterns may be buried beneath the field because it used to be an apple orchard.
Klaneski added that although the proposal states that the apartments will be market rate, 25% of them can still be considered low income housing. She opposes this kind of housing in her neighborhood.
â€śOur street is very small and very steep and we have a lot of historic homes going back to the days of the Eagle Lock Company in the 1890s,â€ť she said. â€śMost people come to little towns to buy single-family homes with a yard. This is not an apartment kind of town.â€ť
Klaneski added that, in June 2008, the town commissioned a Phase I environmental study of Prospect Street School. That study determined that due to the schoolâ€™s age and condition that the best solution would be to raze it.
â€śSince no phase II environmental study was ever commissioned, the extent of carcinogens in the building has never been fully determined,â€ť she said. â€śWhile Mayor David Merchant said that remediation and demolition would cost the town $2.5 million, we believe there is no way to estimate the cost and scope of the project without further investigation. The study also found that the foundations are crumbling. We believe that the developer has no intention of doing anything with the school and that this is all a smoke screen to build apartments on a primo piece of land.â€ť
Merchant said that the townâ€™s attorney attempted to convince a judge to deny the Klaneskisâ€™ motion. However, Judge Julia Aurigemma denied the townâ€™s motion to dismiss the case on Aug. 1. This means that the Klaneskis and the town will appear in court at a later date to make their arguments.
â€śThis is not a victory for her by any means,â€ť Merchant said. â€śIt just means that she can come to court and present to a judge. I expect that this will probably go to court by October or November.â€ť
Klaneski said that Aurigemmaâ€™s judicial edict â€śclearly states that not only do we have standing to bring the case, but also we filed our appeal in a timely manner.â€ť
â€śThe mayor wants that school out of his hands at any cost,â€ť she said. â€śWe plan to vigorously pursue both a temporary and permanent injunction to stop the proposed project.â€ť
Merchant said that Prospect Street School is currently a liability for the town. However, he said that it is in a â€śgood area of town,â€ť located close to downtown, and that if renovated into apartments it could help to revitalize downtown.
â€śMain Street School was also a huge liability, but now that it has been purchased by EdAdvance it is going to be a huge asset to our town and surrounding communities,â€ť he said. â€śIt is disheartening to see abandoned schools doing nothing but creating blight.â€ť
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or .