The town is considering buying the historic house and property on the corner of Norfield and Weston roads for $750,000. That is about $200,000 less than the appraised value.
The one-acre property, 48 Norfield Road, once owned by former First Selectman George Guidera, is currently owned by Fairfield County Bank, which has agreed to negotiate the sale with the town.
First Selectman Gayle Weinstein said she was working with the bank “to come up with a price I thought was fair and that I could bring to the residents of the town.”
When Mr. Guidera first put the house on the market in 2008, it was listed for $2.495 million. When the bank first put it on the market, Ms. Weinstein said, it was listed at $1.2 million.
The property is contiguous with other town property in Weston Center, including town hall, the Norfield fire station and the school campus.
The house would likely be used for office space. Ms. Weinstein said she would love to see the land use department moved there from the portables at the Town Hall Annex, which, she said, are not convenient and are past their life expectancy.
Another option is to move the Parks and Recreation Department there. Those offices are currently located across Norfield Road in the town-owned Jarvis House.
However, she said, the opportunity is such a good one she does not believe a decision has to necessarily be made before purchasing the property, if the town’s voters agree it is a good idea. “We need to think long-term,” she said. “Either we purchase it now, or we will likely lose it.”
Selectman David Muller was in agreement.
“For me, this represents a once in a decade, or maybe 20- or 30-year period to acquire the property at a price I think is very reasonable… Allowing that property to come to the town for a very attractive price would be a very solid way of ensuring access for future generations to a piece of contiguous property that would serve for town government and other purposes,” Mr. Muller said.
Selectman Dennis Tracey said he, too, thinks the price is “very reasonable” given the location and nature of the property.
However, he cautioned that in tight budget times, especially with declining school population and excess space at school facilities, “we have to make sure we are using our resources in the most effective way possible.”
Mr. Tracey said he is more interested in developing properties that have the potential to “bring the town together,” such as Lachat. But, he acknowledged, this could be that kind of property if it ultimately helps create a “beautiful town center,” he said.
The house at 28 Norfield Road is more than 250 years old. It was built in 1765 by Eliphalet Coley, and an addition was built in 1830. The addition was originally used to house boarders at the Jarvis Military Academy across the street.
The building has since been renovated to include office space on the ground floor. It has been used for professional services since 1950, housing a few dentists, and Mr. Guidera’s law office.
Ms. Weinstein said she imagines three possible scenarios for purchasing the property: using cash from the general fund, buying it then recouping the cost by selling Jarvis House, or making the sale contingent on the sale of Jarvis House.
Jarvis House is not particularly appropriate for the Parks and Recreation Department, Ms. Weinstein said. “Some people think it’s a no-brainer to sell Jarvis, but a lot of people have an emotional attachment to it and consider it a vital piece of Weston’s history,” she said.
“It’s important to find out how people feel,” she said.
People also need to be aware the 28 Norfield Road house would not be in “move-in” condition for municipal space, she said. Among other things, it needs insulation and would have to be brought up to code.
The selectmen scheduled a designated public comment time at the beginning of their Thursday, March 21, meeting to hear from the public about the idea of purchasing the property.
Ms. Weinstein said she is not setting a public hearing, yet, because the Planning and Zoning Commission would first need to give 8-24 approval, determining if it believes the purchase to be an appropriate use for the town. P&Z would hold a public hearing on the issue, Ms. Weinstein said.
If P&Z gives the thumbs up, “then we need to figure out how to pay for it,” she said.
But, she does believe the selectmen should hear from the public before moving forward with the purchase, she said, so the public comment time was scheduled.
Because of the property’s location, the Historic District Commission would also need to approve any change in use of the house.