Scott Lavelle, property manager for Divivo-Vona, LLC, confirmed Thursday morning, January 16, that an eviction is proceeding against Make A Home Foundation, located at 40 High Bridge Road in Newtown.
Make A Home Foundation was established in Sandy Hook in 2010, and originally operated out of offices at 87 Church Hill Road. Its stated intention at that time was to provide free furniture, appliances, clothing, and other items to veterans, families, and other individuals who are homeless, either due to temporary circumstances or those problems that are ongoing.
Founders Anita Pettengill and Dan Telesco moved the charity business to the 56,000 square foot High Bridge site in 2011. In June 2012, Ms Pettengill told The Newtown Bee, “Mario Divivo, the owner of the warehouse, has provided the warehouse to us, rent free, for one year. But in August, we will have to start paying rent.”
The eviction is due to nonpayment of rent on the space for the past year and a half, said Mr Lavelle.
“[Make A Home founders] signed a stipulated agreement to leave by December 15, 2013, but they violated that agreement,” Mr Lavelle said. Therefore, it is up to the court to now carry out eviction proceedings. He expected that the State Marshal would lock the doors to the establishment by early next week.
“All items have to be inventoried by the Marshal. Then Make A Home has two weeks to remove all items, or they become property of the landlord,” he said.
A court case brought against Make A Home last year for violation of town zoning laws, which forbids ongoing retail sales at the 40 High Bridge site, is still pending, said Newtown Director of Planning and Land Use George Benson. Make A Home had instituted a membership program allowing members to shop at the warehouse, a process Mr Benson said was also not allowed by zoning regulations for that site. Ms Pettengill and Mr Telesco said last summer that retails sales were necessary to cover overhead at the warehouse.
Mr Benson emphasized on Thursday morning that it is not the town evicting Make A Home.
“It is the landlord locking them out,” he said.