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Fate of Grange Hall still unknown

Date: 5/31/2011

May 30, 2011

By Chris Maza

Reminder Assistant Editor

WILBRAHAM — The town voted to approve the sale of the former Grange Hall, but a question remains: What can be done with the property?

Should the town be unable to sell the land and building, the town could take further action, which could include the demolition of the historic building, but Building Inspector Lance Trevallion hopes it doesn't come to that.

"I believe this building should be sold," he said. "In order to maintain the integrity of the building, it needs to be sold to someone who is capable of taking care of a 100-plus-year-old building. Otherwise, it will continue to deteriorate.

"This is a usable storage space and with some work, it could be a dwelling," he continued.

Grange Hall is zoned as residential property and therefore its uses are somewhat limited and the building could not be used primarily for business purposes. If it were used as a municipal building, Trevallion said, the zoning laws are more lenient and would allow it to be used as a museum or a school. It could also be used as a church.

Whoever decides to purchase the building would have their work cut out for them. The building, whose title was given to the town nearly eight years ago, has been used primarily as a storage unit by the town.

"It was an assembly hall. It's one big room with a stage and a balcony," Trevallion said. "There's another big room in the basement. It was used for square dances and potluck suppers and things of that nature."

The restroom facilities in the hall are "outdated and nonfunctional" at this point, Trevallion added.

If someone were to buy it for private use, other than a dwelling, it would have to come into compliance with the regulations set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which it currently falls short of.

"It's not even remotely close [to meeting ADA regulations]," Trevallion said. "The first floor is roughly four feet above the ground, so access becomes a challenge."

Despite the building's shortcomings, Trevallion said Grange Hall possesses many positive qualities, both functionally and esthetically.

"It has great Victorian detail. It has three different types of siding," Trevallion said. "It's more detailed architecturally than any other Victorian in town."

It also possesses a large kitchen in the basement with an industrial-sized stove.

Trevallion said that he believed that any work that needs to be done to the property would be well worth it to the right person.

He added that while the primary use of the building can't be commercial in nature, residents could apply for a special permit that could allow a business to be run from the building, provided the business owner also lives there.

"If I was in my 30s, I would think [Grange Hall] would have great potential to be remodeled into a residential structure," Trevallion said. "Those in certain fields like an accountant, an architect or a lawyer could apply for the special permits as a commercial occupation. A young, ambitious professional could make a nice little spot there."

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