Moynihan: Vine Cottage is worth three times Land Trust’s offer

The city rejected a recent offer from a venerable nonprofit to buy Vine Cottage because the building is worth more money than what was offered, according to first-team coach Kevin Moynihan.

The Board of Selectmen met out of sight of the public — as public agencies are permitted to do, under state law, when dealing with certain specific aspects of real estate transactions — to “decide whether we should negotiate with the [New Canaan] Land Trust,” Moynihan said during the regular city council meeting on Tuesday.

“We have an indication that the value of this property is three times that offered by the Land Trust,” Moynihan said at the meeting, held at City Hall and via video conference. “If we get to the point where we kind of want to give it to a nonprofit, a major local nonprofit, we could. But right now, to start, we really need it for the Ministry of Health. And secondly, we just – it’s hard to swear off ownership to a non-profit organization for a third of its value.

His comments came during a general update to city council.

After searching for a potential buyer for the building twice in the past three years, Moynihan said last month the city could keep the circa 1859 building, which has long been part of the City Hall campus. , as the seat of the municipal health department. .

The Land Trust itself disclosed its offer to purchase, in a letter to the editor. In it, Board Chairman Tom Cronin said the organization’s acquisition of Vine Cottage would address “four important needs of New Canaan City,” including eliminating the financial burden on taxpayers. for structural maintenance, restoration and renovation of the historic building; offering the city the possibility of buying the building.; and “create a desirable new home for other nonprofits by leasing excess office space.”

“With a mission that continues in ‘perpetuity’, the Land Trust can play an important role in preserving, restoring and making Vine Cottage available to all residents of the town,” Cronin said in the letter. “While the Department of Health has a short-term need for the building, the Land Trust would like to be part of the long-term vision for this cherished landmark.”

Dozens of residents voiced their support for the Land Trust’s proposal after it was disclosed. City Council member Hilary Ormond asked Moynihan to explain why the city rejected the Land Trust’s offer, saying she heard members of the public explain why it was rejected out of hand.

Located at 61 Main St. across from the fire station, Vine Cottage is a yellow, turreted building that the city has owned since 1997.

In early 2017, a proposal to renovate the building for $550,000 was rejected by city council. Some townspeople have suggested that the actual cost of maintaining it could be as low as $220,000. In the summer of 2018, Moynihan said the building was likely to be sold, and although then-manager Kit Devereaux pushed back on the move, selectors voted 2-1 in June 2019 to approve the RFP . A field of four interested parties has been narrowed down to two suitors, Robert Cuda and Arnold Karp, Moynihan said. Cuda died in December 2019 and negotiations with Karp, owner of the nearby former Red Cross building, slowed amid the pandemic, city officials said.

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