Cornwall to decide fate of LaValley Store

CORNWALL — Cornwall residents next March will again be asked to weigh in on the future of the Lavalley Store building in wake of a spirited but unsuccessful citizens’ effort to raise enough funds to renovate the 120-year-old building and have it function as a full-time business.
“After four years working to find a way to save the Lavalley Store using only privately raised funds, we have determined this cannot be achieved in the current economic climate,” reads a recent letter from residents Thomas Keefe and Beth Karnes Keefe to the Cornwall selectboard.
“What has stopped us is the state of the economy; while there is great anecdotal support for this project, we do not see the kind of financial grassroots support needed to succeed available at this time. We have determined that this cannot be achieved now as a private project.”
The Keefes are part of a group the Cornwall selectboard gave one year to come up with a plan to save the Lavalley Store, which is located on Route 30 next to the town hall. The building ceased to function as a store back in 1940, but was maintained as a residence by the Lavalley family until 1997. The family gave the building to the town in 2000, triggering a debate on how the community might use the structure, which is in need of between $300,000 and $400,000 in repairs.
Cornwall’s 2007 town meeting featured an article asking residents how they felt about either demolishing or renovating the store building. That article was tabled to give boosters an opportunity to put but more study into what it would take to give the building a substantial makeover and a business tenant.
Thomas Keefe, an architect, donated his expertise to assessing the building’s needs. Through those and other efforts, Beth Karnes Keefe said the group was able to find “solutions to the most challenging aspects of this project,” including:
•A septic system plan that would help accommodate a small business at the Lavalley Store. “Septic was always the biggest issue,” Karnes Keefe said.
•A proposal for a well that would serve the store and upgrade the water supply at the town offices.
•Preparation of a business plan for a community store. A seasonal farm stand has operated on the Lavalley Store property for the past few years.
Supporters also secured some grant money to help stabilize the building, which they believe could be a key component of a revitalized Cornwall village center.
Karnes Keefe said that while there has been a renewed interest in the store property, that interest has not translated into enough donations and grants to put a renovation plan into motion.
“We have had a lot of the jigsaw pieces fall into place, but we didn’t feel that groundswell of support to make (the project) happen,” Karnes Keefe said.
“We thought we could do it, but that was pre-recession.”
With that in mind — and with the one-year deadline passed — Karnes Keefe and her colleagues are volleying the issue back into the selectboard’s court. And the selectboard in turn will ask townspeople their opinion at the 2011 town meeting next March.
Cornwall selectboard Chairman Bruce Hiland said he and his colleagues will soon draft an article for the town meeting warning that will hopefully settle a firm course of action of the Lavalley Store. One of those courses of action could be to invite someone to dismantle the structure for salvage of useful items.
“There is apparently little interest in having any town money spent on this,” Hiland said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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