Happy Ending for Eaton Village Store

Conway — April 2, 2009 — The non-profit Eaton Village Preservation Society had good news to share with patrons of the group’s Eaton Village Store Wednesday. The 1.28-acre tract of land diagonally across Route 153 from the store was purchased by a Virginia couple, who have granted an easement to the Eaton Village Preservation Society to build a septic system to serve the store.

The purchase and easement were announced Wednesday by society president Kevin Flynn and treasurer Randy Cooper, an attorney with Cooper, Cargill and Chant of North Conway. Buying the 1.6-acre lot from Edward Burri of Bedford, Mass., were Elizabeth Cobbs and husband Philip Green, both of Arlington, Va. Elizabeth Cobbs is the sister of Eaton resident Marnie Cobbs.

Cooper said the negotiated purchase price was $325,000 — less than the $400,000 that was presented to voters in a warrant article at town meeting, but more than the $250,000 appraised value that was cited by some Realtors prior to the town meeting vote. The town meeting article proposing that the town purchase the land for a septic system for the store was defeated, 82-59. The article required a two-thirds vote for passage but failed to get even a simple majority.

“Although they say they at present have no plans to do so, they [Cobbs and Green] retain the right to put up a two-bedroom house on the lot that would also use the septic system that is to be built to serve the store and its adjoining two-bedroom caretaker apartment,” said Cooper Wednesday after the sale.

Next the Eaton Village Preservation Society must raise approximately $65,000 to build the septic system, remove the not-in-use vacation cottages on the lot, put up some parking on the lot, and add landscaping to enhance the water viewshed afforded by the lot, Cooper and Flynn said.

“We’ll be looking for some help from everyone to raise that money,” said Cooper.

Both Flynn and Cooper said the purchase-and-sales agreement marks a successful and happy ending to what had become a contentious taxpayer-versus-preservation issue in the tiny town on the shores of Crystal Lake. Key to the debate was the store’s failing septic system and the lack of room on which to locate an adequate septic system. A secondary topic was the goal of preserving the viewshed of the lake — a lofty goal in good economic times, but a tough sell in a down economy in which taxpayers are watching their wallets more than ever.

“No one at town meeting said they did not support the store — it was about the cost, the timing. It just wasn’t in their budget. It [the vote against the article for the land purchase] was a sign of the times,” said Cooper. “We cannot say enough about the generosity of Phil Green and Elizabeth Cobbs for protecting the viability of the Eaton Village Store.”

Flynn said plans for the septic system are being finalized by Thadeus Thorne Surveys.

Added Flynn, “We are ecstatic. This preserves the view, saves the store and now we need the community to come together and help us to fund raise for the actual installation for construction of the system, which could start as early as May or June.”

The Eaton Village Preservation Society owns the store as a non-profit entity and leases it out to proprietor Phil Kelly, who owned the store in the late 1970s. The store serves as the town’s post office, convenience store and breakfast and lunch gathering spot.

The Eaton Village Preservation Society purchased the store and adjoining two-bedroom apartment in 2004 and opened it for business in 2006 after renovations. The group paid off the store’s mortgage in September. Donations for the new septic system and landscaping may be sent to: Eaton Village Preservation Society, P.O. Box 246, Eaton Center 03832.

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