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Grange Update

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Published September 12, 2007 at 4:00 a.m.

FERRISBURGH - Plans for a $2.75 million reconstruction of the historic Ferrisburgh Grange, which was destroyed by arson more than two years ago, suffered a setback after a group of locals spoke out against the proposal at a select board meeting late last month.

Due in part to that opposition, the board opted not to approve the plan in time for an August 31 deadline with BreadLoaf Corp., the project's manager. Now contracts will have to be re-bid, which could inflate its cost.

Questions over whether the Grange should be resurrected in an expanded, multipurpose form spurred the debate.

"It's a poor mix," Ferrisburgh realtor and local civic activist Carl Cole says of the plan to include town offices in the Route 7 building. He suggests the Grange Hall, completed in 1868, should be rebuilt in its original configuration, with town offices shifted to a more efficiently designed structure that could be built on adjoining land. "We have enough money to do both projects," Cole insists.

Silas Towler, a leading advocate of the pending proposal, calls Cole's alternative "totally unrealistic." He notes that the plan to include the offices and a community center in a 7700-square-foot version of the Grange Hall had been approved by Ferrisburgh voters in 2004. Local officials appear determined to move ahead with that plan. The town's zoning board issued a building permit last week, but it doesn't take effect until a 30-day appeals period has passed.

Cole doesn't plan to file an appeal of the permit but says he won't be surprised if someone else does, and that would stall the project until next year. But he'll acquiesce if officials do go forward with the original plan. "I won't be party to something that tears the town apart," he declares.