North Stonington to Lease Gallup House to US Coast Guard Member | North of Stonington

NORTH STONINGTON — A push to convert the John Dean Gallup House space into a cultural center run by non-profit group Milltown Arts has gained momentum in recent weeks, and members of the Board of Selectmen voted on Monday in favor of approval of a short-term lease while volunteers explore viable future options for the site.

Board members voted unanimously on Monday to enter into a one-year lease agreement with a US Coast Guard Academy employee who is beginning a three-year assignment in the area. The tenant, a man in his twenties named Patrick, is described as an outdoor enthusiast who expressed a keen interest in gardening and hiking in his application.

The private lease will earn the city $1,600 in monthly rent, first coach Robert Carlson said, and the tenant will be responsible for all utilities, including heat, electricity and water. The tenant should move in as of July 1st.

“We told ratepayers a while ago that we were going to lease the property and as city leaders we have to stick to what they were told,” Carlson said. “This house is vacant and has not generated income for three years, and we have promised to remedy this.”

“I like the idea of ​​partnering with the Farmers’ Market, using this building for the arts, etc., but I don’t think the time is right,” he said.

The Gallup House, located at Hewitt Farm, is a historic 1750’s home with 4 bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms, and the rental will include the lower level of the coach house located next to the main house.

The decision went against the initial recommendations of the Hewitt Farm subcommittee, which interviewed four eligible candidates before ultimately recommending that the city rent the property to longtime North Stonington resident Marilyn Mackay after receiving applications following a request for proposals earlier this year.

Sub-committee members had chosen Mackay as the property’s potential long-term tenant – after several years of vacancies, the town went looking for a potential long-term rental – but the quick efforts of local volunteers with Milltown Arts, growing interest in cultural events in the community and outstanding attendance at North Stonington’s first-ever craft farmers market on the adjacent Hewitt Farm property across the street have forged a potential new future for Gallup House.

During the month, growing interest led to a surprise proposal from Milltown Arts volunteers who eventually offered to lease the property to help preserve the historic home while providing a cultural arts center that would sit next to the 109-acre Hewitt Farm. The problem, officials said, is that it has moved so quickly that there is currently no money to secure the property at this time.

Carlson, Selectmen Brett Mastroianni and Selectwoman K. Nicole Porter have each said they support the concept, and Porter has offered tenancy to the approved tenant as a potential short-term solution while the city and Milltown Arts explore whether a long-term partnership on site is a really viable option.

Porter said that in hiring from the U.S. Coast Guard professional, the city specifically selects someone more adaptable and able to relocate after a year or two if the city decides to move in a different direction.

“I’m afraid we’ll tie our hands with this building for several years when we could potentially use it in the near future as a major cultural center,” Porter said.

Carlson said he saw the possibility more likely in two years, but Porter and Mastroianni said they were hopeful that if efforts continued, Milltown Arts could be ready to potentially lease the property as early as a year. Officials warned it was still early in the process and it could potentially take time for the nonprofit to secure funding.

Mackay, a dedicated resident who has served the city in many capacities over the years, attended the meeting via Zoom and expressed frustration with the late decision to consider short-term options for the site, but said also stated that she understood the motive and reasoning and withdrew her candidacy. Already in her 80s, Mackay said she was not interested in moving again in a year or two and hoped her next home would be her last.

Mastroianni said he was weighing the lease hold, a request originally made by Porter who asked for opinions on a 6-month wait before offering to lease the property instead, and agrees with a vision to long term to make the house a cultural centre. He said he was in favor of returning to the subject in a year to see how realistic such a project could be.

“I like the idea that we have a one-year lease in place and will reevaluate at the end of the year to see if we made the right choice,” Mastroianni said. “We will still be in that role then, and then we can respond to it again.”

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