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Community center seeks status for tax exemption

Voters to decide question at Town Meeting

GUILFORD—The Selectboard recently approved the Broad Brook Community Center’s request to allow voters to decide if the Broad Brook Grange should pay municipal property taxes.

At the Dec. 11 regular Selectboard meeting, Sara Coffey and Don McLean, president and vice-president of the Community Center, gave the Board an update on the Community Center’s progress purchasing and renovating the Broad Brook Grange and asked for a Town Meeting warning item addressing the property’s tax-exempt status.

During the past two years, the Broad Brook Grange and the Community Center have worked together to strategize about how the new nonprofit can purchase the building so it can raise funds for the rehabilitation and restoration of the historic hall while ensuring the Grangers continue to have a permanent home and other community groups can meet there.

In late September, members of Broad Brook Grange held a meeting and voted unanimously to approve a memorandum of understanding to sell the building to the Community Center for $1,500. The closing date, Coffey said, is Jan. 12.

This fall, the Broad Brook Community Center began a $1.2 million fundraising campaign to make the building handicapped accessible. So far, Coffey said, they have received $450,000 in pledges. “The [Community Center] board feels very confident we’ll be able to get to the $1.2 million over the next three years,” she added.

A major component of the project is to build a new well and septic system for the grange. Because of state regulations, “the only way we can do that is if we have access to the neighboring Anthony Lot,” Coffey said.

This parcel of land, on the south side of the building, was donated by the Anthony family to the town, with the requirement that the property never be developed.

The Selectboard previously agreed to deed the Anthony Lot to the Broad Brook Community Center if they purchased the building.

Members of the BBCC “did due diligence,” Coffey said, and worked with attorneys and the Anthony heirs to research whether adding a well and septic system would violate the agreement because “it could be considered a structure.”

According to Coffey, the Anthony heirs recently “signed off on giving us permission,” and the Community Center’s attorney will submit the documents to town officials.

The grange building’s closing date was chosen strategically, Coffey said. The Community Center wanted the property transfer to happen before the deadline to get included on the Town Meeting warning.

McLean noted that because the building is changing ownership, townspeople have to vote on its taxation status. McLean pointed out there’s a “long tradition” of the Broad Brook Grange being tax-exempt.

Town Administrator Peder Rude confirmed the Selectboard’s ability to include the item on the Town Meeting warning. “It was determined that there is currently no Vermont statute [...] that requires BBCC to file a petition. It is at the sole discretion of the Selectboard to determine whether or not they must do so,” Rude told The Commons.

“Additionally, the Selectboard had me review the historical precedent within Guilford. Going back 27 years, the Grange (as an organization) and others have not been required to petition to be considered for property tax exemption,” Rude said. “With this information, the Selectboard granted their request to be added to the Town Meeting warning.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #441 (Wednesday, January 10, 2018). This story appeared on page C1.

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