By MARTHA SMITH
Special to the Standard
EXETER â€“ The long-dormant property owned by Kevin Casey, of Connecticut, operating as Exeter Real Estate â€“ once envisioned as a 99-unit development of senior housing called Cobblestone â€“ is being reimagined.
At a recent planning board work session, Casey announced he's â€śreassessing his plans,â€ť says Town Planner David W. Schweid. â€śThe master plan [for the original Cobblestone] was approved in April 2008â€ť but has never gone forward, leaving the property to become overgrown and weed-choked.
The economy has forced Casey's hand.
â€śWhat he said was that due to the economic climate [the big development] isn't practical. He asked if the planning board is interested in pursuing a different avenue with single family homes in a conservation-type subdivision.
â€śIt would allow more dense development in the portion best suited [for building] and conserve the rest. Thatâ€™s what weâ€™re talking about in an informal way. We're happy to work with him.â€ť
The other major issue before the board is developing a master plan, requested by the town council for the library site. The council and other interested parties are discussing a village concept that would incorporate a new town hall; a restored and repurposed Old Town Hall which would become meeting space and a climate-controlled repository of historic artifacts; a war memorial; the restored Hall School and the existing library and park.
The board can possibly devise something by spring, says Schweid, â€śif [the council members] donâ€™t want too detailed a plan. The planning board is going to try to get help from a local surveyor and engineer to come up with a schematic plan that would determine what would go where.â€ť
A future, much more detailed comprehensive plan, he notes, will require a site design with points of access, drainage and new building construction.
â€śMid-way through, you get a permit plan. The planning board would issue a permit then you have to keep working till you have a big plan with enough detail to put it out to bid. When the building [the new town hall] is built, it's exactly what you need right down to the window details. It's the real price with everything in it.â€ť
Schweid says the more basic schematic plan won't be presented to the council before March at the earliest.
â€śWe'll work on it and get something back to them; potential locations for possible [buildings and monuments]. It's a great idea because that's what that site is designed to be â€“ longterm.â€ť
People visiting a village at the Ted Rod Road property would be making â€śa multi-purpose trip to a government site,â€ť he notes. â€śPeople already go all the time to the library; the kids play in Chelsea Park. It would be just great to have a few more things there. Iâ€™ve been pushing for several years to come up with planning for a new town hall.
â€śWe identify a location, space, how big a building you need and seek funding options. The total cost may not be as impossible as you think. There are grants, favorable funding.â€ť
While some residents say, pessimistically, they won't see a new town hall in their lifetime, Schweid views the glass as half-full with the master plan a great beginning.
The existing building, he says, has major issues that need to be resolved.
Martha Smith is an award-winning journalist and author. Retired, she is an independent contractor for SRIN and can be reached at mgs3dachs@ cox.net.