Time Running Out for Eaton Village Store

Eaton — February 14, 2009 — It’s down to a very few options for the Eaton Village Preservation Society in its efforts to preserve the non-profit organization’s Eaton Village Store. “We haven’t given up,” said Eaton Village Preservation Society President Kevin Flynn.

The group’s board of directors met Feb. 9 to discuss its options for securing a location for a new septic system for the store, which the group purchased in 2004 and was first leased out by Eaton Village Preservation Society in 2006. Thursday was the deadline for posting warrant articles for March 10 town meeting.

Flynn said the Eaton Village Preservation Society is counting on townspeople to pass by a required two-thirds majority a warrant article that seeks to have the town to purchase for $400,000 a 1.5-acre parcel known as the Burri property, located diagonally across the street (Route 153). The goal would not only be to preserve the view-shed of Crystal Lake by obtaining the lot that houses four vacant summer rental cabins but also to provide a location for a septic system for the store.

The store’s existing septic system is failing and has to be frequently pumped, according to selectman Rick Young, who said that Flynn “publicly” affirmed as much at a conservation commission meeting this past Monday.

Young in an article that appeared in the Feb. 7 issue of the Conway Daily Sun said he loved the store and that he would do whatever he could to ensure that it remains open, but he also said that in today’s troubled economy, he doubted that townspeople would approve the purchase. He reiterated that assessment in an interview this week.

“I’ve been known to be wrong before,” said Young, “but in this economy, that’s going to be a tough sell.”

He said there may be some benevolent residents who may come to the store’s rescue.

“We do have some heavy hitters in town, so who knows? Maybe they are waiting for the March 10 town meeting vote,” said Young.

The draft warrant article says:

“To see if the town will vote to authorize the selectmen to enter into a contract to purchase the Burri property on Crystal Lake for the sum of $400,000 and furthermore to raise and appropriate $200,000 for the initial payment with $100,000 to come from the unreserved fund balance and $100,000 to come from general taxation. Future payments will be in terms of 10 semi-annual payments of $20,000 plus 4 percent interest; this amount will be added to the operating budget in future years (two-thirds vote required).”

Young said that at this past Monday’s conservation commission meeting, Flynn said the Eaton Village Preservation Society had exhausted its options other than having the town OK the warrant article so that the septic easement could be obtained by the preservation society.

Interviewed later this week, Flynn confirmed that information, and said that should townspeople not approve the article, then the purchase-and-sales agreement would be voided and a new one would have to be worked out were the Eaton Village Preservation Society to try to buy the land itself.

Another option, he said, would be for any potential buyer to agree to an easement with the Eaton Village Preservation Society to put its septic system on the lot. A septic survey performed by Thorne Surveys and paid for by Eaton Village Preservation Society determined that the lot could accommodate a two-bedroom home and the septic needs of the store.

Flynn said that Thaddeus Thorne Surveys had looked at abutting properties for options for a septic system but determined that none were big enough except the Burri property to accommodate the store’s septic needs.

“The water has to go somewhere,” said Flynn, “and the only place it can go is across the street to a new septic site there.”

Flynn said attorney Randy Cooper, the group’s treasurer, is working on easement language to be presented to selectmen. Flynn said his group is not throwing in the towel.

“Eight of our nine board members were present at our meeting, and we are not giving up. There was a lot of positive energy around the table,” said Flynn, who said the store plays a central role in the daily life of the small village, serving as a breakfast and lunch spot as well as a store and the town’s post office.

The store is leased by the Eaton Village Preservation Society to Phil Kelly, who owned and operated it in the late 1970s. The site also houses an apartment that serves as Kelly’s home. Flynn said the Eaton Village Preservation Society is planning on holding an informational meeting March 7 at a yet-to-be determined location, prior to town meeting March 10.

“We’re putting our facts together, and our board will be meeting again prior to meeting with townspeople March 7. We’re still looking for a place to hold that March 7 meeting, so stay tuned,” said Flynn Friday.

Built as a home in the 1800s, the structure was converted into a store in the 1940s. Kelly says the second floor of the original home now serves as the first floor of the store, as it was dropped down during renovations in the 1940s after the first floor rotted out. Kelly also said that the windows for the store originally were part of the old Crawford House, one of the 19th-century White Mountain grand hotels, which burned on the site of today’s Appalachian Mountain Club Highland Center in 1977.

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