When it comes to the future of the old East Haven High School at 200 Tyler Street it appears that it will be the that will cast the final and decisive vote.
, Art DeSorbo, economic development coordinator, reported to the Town Council the Mayor's Office was seeking an opinion from Town Attorney Joseph Zullo on whether or not last November's referendum to was actually binding on the town.
The referendum gave voters three choices:
- Shall the property located at 200 Tyler Street be rehabilitated at a cost to the Town and used for educational purposes?
- Shall the property located at 200 Tyler Street be rehabilitated at a cost to the Town and used for community purposes?
- Shall the property located at 200 Tyler Street be sold by the Town for condominium use?
Residents voted to of renovating the aging facility for community use.
This morning, DeSorbo told East Haven Patch that no official legal decision has as yet been handed down by Zullo, but the town attorney was leaning toward the referendum not being a binding one.
DeSorbo added that Zullo is expected to have his final opinion in writing prior to the Town Council's regularly scheduled meeting in April.
Although no final decision has yet been handed down, it appears the administration has decided to take the first steps forward in its for the town-owned site.
On Sunday, the town published a legal notice in the New Haven Register putting out a call for "request for qualifications" for engineering and architectural services "for the conversion of the Old East Haven High School, 200 Tyler Street East Haven, CT, to elderly rental housing apartments."
"The work shall basically involve preparation of design and plans for same," the notice reads. "This work shall include evaluation of ADA and life safety codes, evaluation of heating, plumbing and air handling system and preparation of schematic plans for internal and site improvements."
The deadline for proposal submissions is April 20.
Many voters have over the possibility that the results of last November's referendum will not be carried out by the town.
It does appear, however, the power to make that decision does lie in the hands of town officials.
Joshua Foley, of the State Elections Enforcement Commission, told East Haven Patch that if an issue regarding a referendum is not specifically addressed in state or local election laws, it is then open to legal interpretation by town officials.
"And the town attorney is really the one who interprets that," Foley said, adding that that interpretation is generally determined by reviewing Connecticut State Statues along with a town's charter.
Current state statutes regarding referenda primarily deal with the electoral process of developing, voting on and then reporting a question on a municipal ballot.
And although the specifically addresses referendums on the town budget and ordinances, it does not deal with ballot questions like the one asked on 200 Tyler Street last fall.
Foley said residents can file a complaint with the SEEC if they feel there has been a violation in the procedural aspects of how a referendum was carried out.
"But it has to be an alleged violation of the state election law and not a violation of the charter," he said, adding those complaints generally relate to how a question was framed on the ballot or a campaign finance issue.
Foley said voters can also file suit against the town, but that generally requires hiring an attorney — an expense many individual private residents may find difficult to meet.
Ultimately, DeSorbo said the administration's decision to pursue elderly housing for the 200 Tyler Street site is driven by today's economic realities.
The cost to rehabilitate and renovate the building — and ensuring it is up to today's building code stands — for community/municipal center would present a "tremendous" cost to the town, he said.
"It would cost many millions... and there's just no money for that kind of project at either the state or local level," DeSorbo said.
He added that renovating the facility into some sort of educational use center "would be even more expensive."
And so, according to DeSorbo, the most cost-effective way to rehabilitate the property would be as elderly housing.
"And the town just doesn't need another (standard) housing complex," he said.
The senior housing option would ensure the property no longer wastes away, while also eventually increasing the town's tax base, DeSorbo said.
'Six Developers Interested'
And there already appears to be interest in such a project.
DeSorbo reported at the last Economic Development Commission meeting on Feb. 27 that "there were six developers interested in the property."
The meeting's minutes are posted in the gallery that accompanies this article.