Bethel selectmen OK construction of veterans memorial on tax-acquired lot

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BETHEL – The Board of Selectmen unanimously voted Monday evening to allow an Honor Roll Committee to continue efforts to build a veterans memorial on a Main Street lot.

Interim Town Manager Steve Eldridge said the town acquired the lot from George Dunn for nonpayment of taxes. The town has been allowing an Honor Roll Committee to build a veterans memorial on the lot.

Resident Debra Mills, who lives in the building next to the lot, asked selectmen to grant her an easement to continue parking on the lot, and to put the issue before voters during the annual town meeting in June.

Mills said in a letter to selectmen that she had used part of the property as a parking space for “quite some time and hopes to do so in the future.”

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Mills said she couldn’t park along a side of the building because she had to “look into the removal of encroachments” placed by neighbors on her property.

Selectmen did not take action at their meetings Sept. 15 and 29. Jared Crockett, acting as legal agent for the American Legion, recommended that the town accept a quitclaim deed from Dunn so they could own the property outright.

At Monday’s meeting, Eldridge said the town’s attorney wrote that selectmen had three options they could consider with Dunn’s property: accept the quitclaim deed from Dunn, which carries a covenant that the land only be used for a veterans memorial, rewrite the quitclaim deed to remove the covenant and then accept it, or do nothing and vote to allow the Honor Roll Committee to continue work on the memorial.

“During your previous meeting, Mr. Crockett brought to your attention that Mr. Dunn could come back up to 15 years later and make a claim on his property, which is why you should accept the quitclaim deed,” Eldridge told the board. “The town attorney doesn’t disagree with that, but she’s gone through the lien process, and said that it’s all very clean, and that it would hold up in court if it came to that.”

Eldridge said the town attorney’s recommendation was to do nothing with the quitclaim deed and allow Mills to park on the property until April 15, 2015.

Selectman Don Bennett said that as far as he knew, there was “no real interest in doing anything else with the Dunn lot other than building a veterans memorial.”

He made a motion for the board to accept the quitclaim deed from Dunn, and allow Mills to park on the property until April 15, 2015, when a fence or barrier would be constructed around the lot.

“It seems obvious to me that there will be no construction on this memorial during the winter,” Bennett said. “It also seems obvious that if we move forward with this and prevent Debra from parking on the property this winter, she’ll end up parking in the street. I’ve talked with several of my colleagues, and none of us see anything wrong with allowing her to park on the property for the winter. This would give her time to figure out a new place to park.”

Eldridge later told the board that accepting the quitclaim deed has no value because “we already own the land.”

Selectman Peter Southam asked Bennett if he wished to amend the motion so that the town would not accept the quitclaim deed, but still allow the Honor Roll Committee to move forward with the memorial.

“That would basically be accepting the town attorney’s recommended option,” Southam added.

Bennett said he would agree to that.

The board voted 5-0 to approve the motion.

One resident involved with the Honor Roll Committee asked the board who will tell the committee, in writing, that it can proceed with the veterans memorial.

Eldridge said he would have the town attorney draft a letter.

mdaigle@sunjournal.com

 

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