YMCA expansion set; Olney home is the only sticking point

By Rob Glidden

Staff Writer

The YMCA’s plans for expanding their building and adding new parking lots was approved by the Planning & Zoning Commission, although details of how the organization will deal with traffic are still under negotiation.

The expansion includes additions on two sides of the YMCA’s main building and an increase of about 30 parking spaces. The organization hopes to have the new parking lots completed by summer, when their facilities are busiest.

“The good news is that the concept of the expansion and our development was received enthusiastically by the commission,” said YMCA Executive Director John Myers. “In terms of our timeline, we’re still very tight. We’ve put in our application to the [state] Department of Transportation, which we need to do because we’re on Route 10.”

At the commission’s meeting in December, the officials expressed concern about the impact on traffic. In particular, a curb cut to North Main Street on the site of the former TD Banknorth building (now owned by the YMCA) had the commission concerned about additional traffic being added to an area that is already notorious for congestion.

However, the curb cut existed before the YMCA owned the property and the organization plans to add another outlet to the less crowded Mill Street. Myers said conversations about the traffic issues with the commission would continue.

“We didn’t love that curb cut but I think [the project] will improve the flow overall,” said Zoning Chairman Michael DelSanto. “Anyone who lives in town hopefully knows better than to turn out onto North Main from there.”

The YMCA hopes to put the parking lots out to bid in the spring, although one other facet of the project remains unresolved. While preparing for the project, the YMCA purchased numerous adjacent properties on High Street and North Main Street, including the site of the Andrews/Olney House. When news broke that the YMCA planned to demolish the building, several historical organizations objected and the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation successfully filed a court injunction to keep the house from being knocked down. At the December meeting, numerous speakers urged the YMCA and the town to preserve the house.

“We’re still working with the trust to find a feasible and prudent way to save that building,” Myers said.

Because the matter is still in court, the YMCA had introduced two potential plans for approval by the commission – their original plan and an updated one that would work around the Olney House. Both were given the blessing of the commission.

“What they presented is what we approved. The fate of that building is in the hands of the court,” DelSanto said.

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