By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLBURY — It appears as though the various broadcasting and cell phone tenants of the communications tower on Chipman Hill will be providing Middlebury residents with some property tax relief this year.
Subject to the approval of an Addison County Probate Court judge, a portion of the rental fees derived from those tower tenants will be used to make up a penny on the tax rate — around $70,000 in property tax revenues — that will be earmarked for Middlebury’s conservation fund.
Middlebury selectmen recently requested the donation from directors of the Battell Trust, a 100-year-old organization that presides over the vast public lands on which the communication tower is located. Those lands include the 130-acre Chipman Hill and 90-acre Battell Woods properties that were willed to the town by the late Joseph Battell, who stipulated that the lands be used for public enjoyment.
A communications tower (to host an FM station transmitter) was first built on Chipman Hill around 30 years ago. The courts in 2003 OK’d the replacement of that initial tower with the more modern structure that stands there today. The structure provides free spots to several emergency response organizations, including the Middlebury police and fire departments, the Middlebury Volunteer Ambulance Association and Porter Hospital dispatch services, Middlebury Department of Public Works and the Addison County Sheriff’s Department.
But other users — who pay monthly fees ranging from $500 to $2,000 — include Central Vermont Public Service Corp., Rinker’s Paging, Unicel, NEXTEL, U.S. Cellular, Verizon Wireless and local radio stations like WFAD 1490 AM.
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Ben Franklin, one of downtown Middlebury’s largest retailers, is on the verge of being sold to a local family that plans to maintain it as a general merchandise store.
Bonnie Gridley, a broker/owner of RE/MAX Champlain Valley Properties, confirmed the potential transaction last week. She said she could not disclose the names of the buyers until the deal is finalized, which is likely to occur by the end of next month.
“They plan to keep the business pretty much status quo,” Gridley said, though the new owners may introduce some new items in addition to the household wares, fabric, toys, dry goods, candy and other odds and ends that have drawn area shoppers to Ben Franklin for the past 71 years.
“We hope people will continue to support the store,” Gridley said.
News of the store’s acquisition by a local family and word that it will remain retail space should come as good news to many Middlebury residents and town officials who feared the sizable Main Street spot could by carved up into condominiums or otherwise taken out of the downtown shopping mix.
The Duffany family acquired the Ben Franklin store in 1943 and has owned it ever since. Larry Duffany confirmed back in July that he was putting the 63 Main St. business — as well as the building in which it is located — on the market.
A Web-based listing of the property indicated an asking price of $649,000 for the two-story building and the 0.12 acres on which it sits. The listing described the building as having 7,832 square feet of office/retail space, along with two “very spacious” apartments on the second floor.
It is currently the largest retail space on Main Street and employs around a dozen full- and part-time workers.