Election and Kearn’s property top BOS agenda for November

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Fall has been busy here in Granby, again. Tours, festivals, music, Halloween parties and hikes abound. It’s been warm and dry (relatively) and great to be outside, even if it’s to rake leaves. Let’s enjoy the comaraderie and opportunities to re-meet old friends and make new ones — before winter comes and we huddle inside or bundle up outside. Fall, my favorite season! 

Election Day is here—Vote Nov. 2 at GMHS. Town elections will be held at Granby Memorial High School, from 6 a.m.–8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 2. There are 26 residents running for 22 elected positions, so please inform and educate yourself on your choices. Voting is a right and a privilege; please use it.

Kearns property update. The town’s broker/advisor, Mike Gorman, recently updated the Board of Selectman (BOS) on market conditions, which overall are weak in re-development of properties such as this. However, there are pockets of opportunity that make Gorman optimistic, and these opportunities are being aggressively pursued. One developer is in active and ongoing discussions, but no firm offer is currently on the table for the property. Gorman cautions Granby to be prepared to focus on the post-sale tax revenues from any offer, which increase the taxes received by the town year-after-year, rather than the one-time sale price. Most successful deals in today’s economy reflect significant incentives to attract investors, as it’s a buyers’ market.

Commercial property revaluations may impact tax revenues. Gorman reported that recent sales of commercial properties show that their values have dropped tremendously, often reduced by 50 percent to 80 percent of pre-COVID values. He described that office vacancy rates are 70 percent in Hartford. Regionally 30 percent of restaurants have closed since pre-COVID. He said that towns and cities with a large commercial tax base are anticipating large drops in commercial property tax income, which may need to be offset by increased residential tax rates to balance their budgets. The BOS discussed that since Granby has a relatively low commercial tax base (around 8 percent), we have reduced exposure to this impact versus towns with more commercial property. As Selectman Ed Ohannessian said, “Pursuing commercial growth is a two-edged sword.” Granby’s next revaluation will be in 2022.

Holcomb Farm annual report. Bob Bystrowski, president of the non-profit Friends of Holcomb Farm (FOHF), reported to the BOS that despite a very difficult growing season they are in strong financial and operational shape. FOHF has leased acreage from the town since 2012 at market rates, without subsidies, and had another sold-out CSA season. The Fresh Access program grew and delivered 12 tons of fresh produce to families of need in Granby and beyond, and the Stewardship program is maintaining miles of trails for public use including the new Tree Trail. FOHF reports a membership of 697 friends who help support the ongoing programs at Holcomb Farm.

Town center intersection work is underway. The State DOT has been actively working on this long-anticipated project, and work will continue in November. Expect lane closures from time-to-time, and watch for notices of any major activities. This is year one of a multi-year project, so expect delays, closures and re-routing as the new normal.

Bear-resistant trash containers are available, again. Contact DPW if you want to help keep bears or other animals from tipping over and spreading your trash. See details in the DPW column in this month’s Drummer.

Get out and vote! And, regardless of whom you vote for, consider giving thanks to everyone who offers to volunteer their time and talents to keep Granby “The Pride of the Valley.”

—Jim Lofink