Residents are concerned about the Town of Madison’s plan to sell the Academy School to a developer that would transform the historic building and the baseball fields behind it into new housing units.
During the NBC Connecticut Connect-a-thon on Thursday, three viewers called about the proposal.
The former Academy School building near the Town Green has been vacant since the school shut down in 2004.
Town leaders are considering four proposals from different developers before they select one for taxpayers to vote on during a referendum.
"Once this is gone, it's gone, it’s never coming back," Kathryn Hunter, who called NBC Connecticut, said.
Hunter said she admits the town does not have the money to fix up the boarded up building that continues to deteriorate, but she does not want to see a developer taking over the property behind the school.
"I want to preserve the fields behind us and the playground for community use," Hunter said. "All four proposals I point out would be the highest density development in downtown Madison."
NBC Connecticut asked First Selectman Tom Banisch if he considered what the redevelopment would do to the small town feel in Madison.
"One of the things we told developers when we went out for proposals was you must maintain the character of the town," Banisch said.
The number of housing units in the proposals range from 20 to as many as 79, Banisch said.
One developer wants to transform the front of the school building into a theater and another would build a septic system big enough to handle downtown’s wastewater problem, Banisch added.
“To put five acres on the grand list in downtown Madison, I think the opportunity is there for significant grand list growth,” Banisch said, acknowledging the hope is for the town to make money of this deal.
But Hunter isn’t sold that the town she’s lived in since the early 2000’s will benefit.
“We should crunch the numbers and decide that we’re going to make enough money off this before we hand the deed to the developer,” Hunter said.
When philanthropist Daniel Hand gifted his academy to the town in 1884, one of the conditions was that the building remain an educational facility.
Banisch told NBC Connecticut that no longer applies as of the late 1950’s.
“I believe we have an ethical and moral obligation to honor Daniel Hand’s legacy and hold this property in trust for community and public use,” Hunter said.
The four proposals from the developers trying to purchase the Academy School property can be read here.
The public hearing on the future of the historic school building is at 7 p.m. Thursday Feb. 22 at the Polson Middle School at 302 Green Hill Road.