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Selectmen Recommend Lanza Home Be Demolished



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The Board of Selectmen unanimously agreed January 5 to recommend to the Legislative Council that the 36 Yogananda Street residence once occupied by Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter Adam Lanza be demolished.

The residence was also the site where Lanza murdered his mother, Nancy, before traveling to the local elementary school and perpetrating one of the worst school shootings in US history.

First Selectman Pat Llodra told Selectmen Will Rodgers and James Gaston, Sr, that she initiated significant outreach to family members and others “most significantly impacted by 12/14” to ascertain their sentiments about the disposition of the residence, which was gifted to the town by Hudson City Savings Bank, the property’s mortgage holder, in December.

Mrs Llodra said she wanted to be sure the final action on the home “best represented the sentiments” of survivors and immediate family members of victims.

She said responses had some variability, particularly to any eventual disposition of the property, and whether to redevelop it with a new building, or to leave the entire property undeveloped. If the latter occurs, Mrs Llodra said the lot would eventually become overgrown and would meld into a huge parcel of open space that borders its rear exposure.

She said the initial tendency is to “let it become a natural place.”

Taking a long view, Mrs Llodra also said she wants to request the town attorney, possibly in conjunction with selectmen, create legal language to stipulate any eventual revenue that might be developed from any sale or development of the property in the future be protected and designated for the families of 12/14 victims.

She said some respondents to her outreach about the property responded they would like to see another residence built eventually — but for another family and sometime in the “far future.”

“But in the near term, I think the best thing we can do to honor the families is demolish the house,” she said. “It’s the families who were the most important voice in this decision.”

She said a couple of other respondents suggested simply selling the property outright to a new owner.  The council renders the final decision on matter, however, because it involves the disposition of town-owned land.

She previously told the council that any appropriations that might be required in the future related to the property, such as demolition expenses for the 3,162-square-foot residence, would originate with the Board of Selectmen. Any such spending must then must pass review by the Board of Finance and the council.

On Monday, she and Finance Director Robert Tait reported that a special insurance fund set up after the tragedy had more than enough surplus funds to cover any residential demolition costs, and that Mrs Llodra based the rough estimate on a recent residential demolition the town initiated on Great Hill Road.

Mr Rodgers, who along with Mr Gaston, is an attorney, said it was important in the long run that a document be finalized indicating the town will in no way benefit from any eventual disposition of the property beyond retaining it as an extension to the existing public open space.

The council also has to agree to that stipulation, Mrs Llodra added.

There is currently $230,000 remaining in the Sandy Hook Recovery Insurance Fund, and it can be used for any expenses related to the incident.

“We wouldn’t be demolishing this house without [it being tied to] the incident,” he said. Any remaining funds in that account at the end of the 2014-15 fiscal cycle will revert to the fund balance, Mr Tait added.

Mrs Llodra estimated the demolition cost, based on the Great Hill Road project, would be about $29,000, and that estimate was generally agreed to be accurate by representatives in the local Public Works Department.

A New Situation 

Earlier in the meeting, Mrs Llodra shared a letter from representatives that also had high praise for bank officials at Hudson City Savings Bank who endorsed giving the property to the community. During previous discussion on the acquisition, the first selectman said bank officials had been “extraordinary in their compassion and generosity,” and that the bank “wants to do the right and best thing on behalf of Newtown.”

William J. LaCalamito, senior vice president for mortgage servicing at the bank, told The Newtown Bee that colleagues from the very top of the organization including its CEO and president are deeply saddened that Newtown “has been through this very terrible, difficult tragedy and we understand this is an extremely sensitive subject and take our responsibilities very seriously.”

Since the bank has branches in neighboring communities including Monroe, Brookfield, Ridgefield, and Bethel, and a lot of employees and their families and customers live, work, or shop in Newtown, bank officials sought to secure the deed to the property from the estate “and decided to deed the property to the town at no cost.”

“This was a new situation for us,” Mr LaCalamito stated. “Since we did not have experience with properties of this nature, we thought it prudent to seek assistance from an experienced professional. Our goal was to be a good neighbor and a good corporate citizen.”

He said the bank followed suggestions of Newtown Police Chief Michael Kehoe, particularly as it relates to the physical security of the premises.

“We sincerely thank the Police Department and local community leaders for their suggestions and assistance,” Mr LaCalamito said in an e-mail.

“We have removed and incinerated all the contents — everything located in the house,” he said. “Our internal security department and law enforcement monitored the process and were satisfied the process was completed properly. No personal effects from the house remain.”

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