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The Bethel Citizen
Updated March 30
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Woodstock’s Grange Hall saved for another year

The two-and-a-half-story hall, which was built in 1892, has been empty since about 2017.

Woodstock’s Franklin Grange Hall built in. 1892. Rose Lincoln

WOODSTOCK — In a surprising about-face, Woodstock voters decided not to raze town-owned Franklin Grange Hall. At a public hearing last week, talk was of tearing down the building that is need of painting, has no foundation and does not meet fire codes. The hall lacks a septic system. It has little more property than the lot its sits on, making parking an issue, too.

At Woodstock’s  Annual Town Meeting on Monday, Walt Staples said, “Somebody stepped forward and said they’d like to buy the grange, paint it and make it available back to the town … the committee would like to take a step back, vote ‘no’ on razing it today and give us a year … ” Staples was one of a seven-member ad-hoc committee that researched the building for two and a half years. Town Manager, Vern Maxfield was reluctant to name the buyer since it was a verbal agreement, not written.

The two-and-a-half-story hall, which was built in 1892, has been empty since about 2017. The building sits on route 26. Directly behind the building, is the studio from where part time resident Tucker Carlson of Fox News, broadcasts. To the right is the Whitman Memorial Library and to the left is the Woodstock Masonic Lodge 246.

Ronnie Deegan, said he spoke for all the selectmen, they wanted the article passed, “we do not want to lose control of that land and if you sell it to somebody, now somebody else owns the building on our land.”

Article 8 on the warrant asked voters if they wanted to have the building removed or razed and retain the property. If the article had been approved, selectmen and the committee would have returned with a plan to be approved by the voters.

Inside the Franklin Grange Hall Rose Lincoln

The annual meeting was held at the Woodstock Fire Department on Monday night with 40 voters in attendance. People sat between two parked fire trucks on one side and fire hoses on the other. Fire personnel sat in the open firemen lockers at the back of the room. Everyone waved American flags to vote. Steve Wight moderated for the 16th time.


Earlier, another article drew some debate but passed. An initial property maintenance ordinance was adopted in 2013. Last night voters amended the ordinance to allow the town’s code enforcement officer to bring unresolved nuisance issues to the select board before the issue is taken to court. “this gives the selectmen a little more teeth so they can use this code when they need to, if they need to,” said Code Enforcement Officer (CEO) Kingston Brown.

Two Planning Board members, Keith Hadley and Chandler Simpkins, objected. “We’re a small town, we’ve always been a small town and I don’t believe the town should be able to go in and do that to somebody if they don’t want it,” said Hadley. Simkins said the six-member planning board voted unanimously against the proposal. He said the nuisance is undefined and unfair. “One person’s nuisance might be another person’s old building they like.”

Selectman Shawn Coffin explained the property maintenance process starts with a complaint. “Do we relish in taking action? Not really.” Next, the CEO, Kingston Brown, is sent out to make contact with the property owner. “We send letters. we can spend 30, 60, 90 days sending letters. It could be in court for six months to a year and a half. The verdict comes back, ‘you’ve got to clean up your property’. The town goes in and we clean up your property. We still put a lien on your property for the clean up fees. We are still out the legal fees … Instead of spending six, eight, 10, 12 thousand dollars in legal fees we can sit here as adults we can come up with a plan .. versus the town spending a lot of money to chase you down and not recouping.”

Besides article 8, all of the other articles were approved, including an addendum to the warrant asking voters to approve buying a new plow truck. Officials want to start the process now because a new truck will be needed in two years and delivery is likely 18 months to two years out, Maxfield said.

Article 17, a vote to appropriate $6,000 for the animal control officer, was a chance for three residents to vent about past and present officers. “In short, we are just as frustrated in the office as you people are … I’ve got [job] applications,” said Maxfield.

When the meeting began at 7 p.m., Maxfield welcomed new librarian, Pat Little. At the podium she invited residents to come to the library.

Shawn Coffin, who is stepping down, was thanked for his six years of service to the select board; Bob McQueeney, was elected by paper ballot as Coffin’s replacement.  “He has assimilated himself into this town and changed himself around this town and hasn’t asked this town to change around him,” said Coffin of McQueeney.

Edwin Howe was not able to attend but received a plaque from Maxfield for his 15-year service to the library board and to the town.

The Conservation Commission members – James Chandler, Peter Fetchko, Ed Rosenberg, Jane Chandler, Marcel Polak, Bob McQueeney, Phillip Cantanese, and Carla Phillips –  received the 2023 Woodstock Spirit of America award for outstanding community service.  “We’re not finished yet, we’re hoping to improve the road so that people with disabilities can drive up to a view spot and enjoy the same view that people who can hike up to Buck’s Ledge can enjoy,” said Polak.

Voters elected library trustees for three-year terms. Sonja Davis was re-elected and Linda Stowell will replace Edwin Howe, whose term expired.

The 208th Woodstock Town Meeting ended around 9 p.m.

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