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Planning board devising new Exeter library site master plan

February 14, 2012

Special to the Standard

EXETER – The long-dormant property owned by Kevin Casey, of Connecticut, operating as Exeter Real Estate – once envisioned as a 99-unit development of senior housing called Cobblestone – is being reimagined.
At a recent planning board work session, Casey announced he's “reassessing his plans,” says Town Planner David W. Schweid. “The master plan [for the original Cobblestone] was approved in April 2008” but has never gone forward, leaving the property to become overgrown and weed-choked.
The economy has forced Casey's hand.
“What 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.
“It would allow more dense development in the portion best suited [for building] and conserve the rest. That’s what we’re talking about in an informal way. We're happy to work with him.”
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, “if [the council members] don’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.”
A future, much more detailed comprehensive plan, he notes, will require a site design with points of access, drainage and new building construction.
“Mid-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.”
Schweid says the more basic schematic plan won't be presented to the council before March at the earliest.
“We'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 – longterm.”
People visiting a village at the Ted Rod Road property would be making “a multi-purpose trip to a government site,” he notes. “People 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. I’ve been pushing for several years to come up with planning for a new town hall.
“We 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.”
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@

Southern Rhode Island Newspapers
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