Grove Town Hall sale voted down

Bob Clark

Grove town officials are going back to the drawing board to figure out what to do with the town hall after Wednesday night's referendum failed to lift a deed restriction.

The town board originally planned to sell the property to Swain Ski Center, but were unable to rally enough support from Canaseraga Central School District residents to lift a deed restriction barring the town from selling the building.

The referendum was defeated by a margin of 116-90, or 26 votes.

Canaseraga school board member Lynn Tucker, the only board member to oppose lifting the deed restriction, was pleased with the outcome of the vote.

“I'm pleased to serve in a community that respects the heritage of its past,” he said, “and puts the interest of the children first.”

Grove town Supervisor Michael Johnsen said he was surprised by the outcome of the referendum.

“There was some additional information circulated that may have negatively impacted the outcome,” he said, referencing unsigned flyers circulated through the district urging residents to vote no on the referendum. According to Johnsen, the flyers did not contain accurate information on the referendum or the selling of the building.

Tucker was seen distributing the flyers in Canaseraga, but would not comment last week on whether he published them.

The premise of the vote - people living outside the Town of Grove voting on what to do with the Grove Town Hall - was strange, according to Johnsen.

“It was a very unusual situation,” he said. “I think some of the people took the opportunity to voice their opinions on the sale.”

Only part of the Town of Grove is in the Canaseraga School District, while the rest of the residents, including Johnsen, live in the Dalton-Nunda School District.

According to Johnsen, the town board needs to take some time and decide a new course of action at its Feb. 20 meeting.

“What this does is slow the process down,” he said, adding the property may still be sold to Swain Ski Center.

“There's always options,” Johnsen added. “Legally we still have the ability to move the building.”

The town hall was originally built in the 1930s as a school house. After classes were moved to Canaseraga, the school district sold the building to the Town of Grove in 1958 for $1 after a school district-wide referendum approved the sale by a margin of 41-0.

Johnsen previously said the town was contacted with an offer from Swain management offering $100,000 and two acres of property near the town highway workshop. According to a flyer printed by Grove officials, the proposal was supported unanimously by the town board.

When the school board was notified of the proposal, district Superintendent Marie Blum contacted the district's attorney and determined a referendum by district residents was required to lift the deed restriction.

Regardless of the outcome, Blum said she was pleased with the voter turnout.

“We had 206 voters total, with two absentee ballots,” she said, adding both absentee ballots were counted. “On a year with a contested board election, we usually get about 400 (voters).”