Madison Continues to Debate Plans for Old Academy School Property

The town of Madison is grappling with a decision on what to do about a long-vacant old school house and the property surrounding it at a meeting Wednesday night.

Madison is considering plans for the old Academy School in the town’s Historic District.

Wednesday’s was the latest meeting as the town weighs four proposals for the site, which hasn’t operated as a school since 2004. The meeting was packed with residents who offered a wide range of ideas for using the space as alternatives for the four proposals developers have already submitted to the Board of Selectmen.

“You’ve thought of all kinds of things, the only thing you haven’t thought of for the building is a mausoleum. We need space for people that are dying. The cemetery is getting full,” one resident joked toward the end of a lengthy public comment period during the meeting.

Several of the currently submitted proposals involve turning the site into high-end residences, something opponents argued would rob the town’s historic district of its character, while robbing residents of access to the beloved field out back. Some residents said they’d like to see the property remain in the town’s possession and they’re concerned about losing the recreational space on the school’s fields.

“We would like to work with the town for another option. We are advocating an building only option without the use of the land,” said Kathryn Hunter of the group Academy Save the Heart of Madison. The grassroots coalition of Madison residents has lead the opposition to what they consider “high density development” that would bring dozens of new residents into the area and potentially remove public access to the school’s open space.

A final decision has not been made, and the Board of Selectmen said they are listening to everyone’s concerns. The town is now planning to go back to the four developers to ask for proposals that include development of only the school building, not the field behind it. They are also set to hire an outside firm to conduct a comprehensive poll of residents to decide which of the four ideas or another will make it onto the ballot for a yes or no referendum vote.

“Right now we’re shaping the question. We don’t know what it’s going to be yet, but we’re shaping it,” said First Selectman Tom Banisch.

The Board of Selectman is set to meet Thursday at noon to review what was discussed at the meeting and work on a plan for moving forward. They’re hoping to have a referendum on the issue by Election Day this fall.

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