Former CVUUS building to be razed

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury officials will order an asbestos assessment of the former Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist Society (CVUUS) meeting house at 6 Water St. in anticipation of soon demolishing the structure and selling the 0.21-acre lot for a retail or commercial venture.
The town acquired the property for $175,000 during the spring of 2008 to establish control over an important right-of-way for the new Cross Street Bridge, scheduled to open on Oct. 30. With the bridge project now well in hand, the selectboard would like to see the community recoup some of its investment by selling the lot.
Selectboard members recently debated the merits of selling the lot as-is (with the meeting house), or as a vacant lot. They unanimously opted for the latter, believing the property will get more nibbles if it is empty and ready for new construction.
“My personal opinion is that the building should be torn down, and the lot should be made more attractive so that it looks better for everybody, including potential developers,” said Middlebury Town Manager Bill Finger.
The CVUUS sold the Water Street property to the town, and a nearby property at 39 Water St. to Mary Johnson Children’s Center, prior to moving into a new sanctuary at 332 Charles Ave.
The lot is currently located in the high-density residential zone, meaning a retail or commercial venture would require a zoning change or variance. But Middlebury’s town plan includes language indicating, “the zoning for buildings immediately abutting the bridge route on South Pleasant and Cross Streets should provide for offices or small retail shop uses.”
“The town plan has already anticipated that this should be done, but the zoning amendments to accomplish that did not happen before the bridge, so that is a piece that would need to be addressed,” said Middlebury Town Planner Fred Dunnington.
Selectboard Chairman John Tenny suggested the town could get the necessary zoning changes, setback variances and parking accommodations settled in advance in order to make the lot more ready for sale. He and his colleagues agreed they don’t want to see the existing structure saved.
“I don’t believe there is anyone at this table who wants to see that building stay there and some attempt at rehabilitation put forward,” Tenny said. “I think that would be counter-productive to all the good efforts that have been tried here.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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