Due to a number of issues with the property on which Bennett College sits, the eyesore at the entrance to the village will remain standing for at least a few more years.
“People need to be patient,” Oakleigh Thorne, CEO of Thorndale Farm LLC, which owns the campus in conjunction with the Millbrook Tribute Garden, said recently. “It took about forty years for people to screw the Bennett property up, it’s going to take us a few years to sort it out.”
When Thorndale Farm and the Tribute Garden acquired the eight parcels that make up the 27.5 acre property, they made public their plan to deal with safety and environmental matters before demolition, with the final goal being a public park for the enjoyment of the community. This does not mean that they have a firm timeline.
The first step, said Thorne, was to secure the site. Curious trespassers and squatters who had been living in the dilapidated buildings are now kept out by a tall fence that encircles the property.
Property rights are the immediate hold up on moving ahead with demolition. Because the land was subdivided several times over the years, it is taking a while to untangle matters. “Sewage lines, water lines and set backs were not handled appropriately. We are trying to work with the neighbors to straighten those situations out,” said Thorne. They are also trying to acquire some additional adjacent land that would assist in creating the planned public space.
Until the owners know exactly what property they are dealing with, they cannot move ahead with the actual demolition of the buildings. The demolition phase itself will take a long time due to the number of permits and approvals required, as will any new buildings or improvements that are made on the property in the future. Thorne promises that the public will have ample opportunity to learn what is happening with the project once it is further along and to register input.
Thorne would like the community to remember that the project is neither funded by the government nor is it for profit. “This is a privately funded, not-for-profit enterprise being conducted for the public good by a bunch of people who are already very busy in their day jobs, and people need to understand that it will take a while.”