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Claremont Discusses What to Do With Old Center

Newport — Local attorney Jim Feleen told the City Council last night there is a faster and less complicated way to dissolve the trust that governs the old indoor pool, Goodwin Community Center and Zotto gymnasium and limits the property’s use for recreation.

But Feleen’s suggestion that the city ask a judge to remove the six restrictions on the deed was not backed by the council nor city attorney Jane Taylor.

Taylor said such action would invite an objection from the attorney general.

“It would be a long, drawn out process because the Attorney General will fight us on it,” Taylor told the council.

Taylor said she already discussed Feleen’s idea as an alternative to a Cy Pres petition with the attorney general’s charitable trusts unit. A Cy Pres, which the state is a party to, is a court filing to dissolve the trust and consequently the restrictions on the property which would allow the city to use it for another purpose, or sell it.

“They (Attorney General) said no. They would object,” Taylor said.

Feleen had told the council a Cy Pres is difficult to achieve and he didn’t believe the property was in fact in a trust.

“You are making a mountain out of a mole hill by treating it as a trust, when you don’t have to,” Feleen said.

When asked by Mayor Jim Neilsen why the city does not do as Feleen recommended while also pursuing a Cy Pres, Taylor said she would “rather have the AG on her side.”

“They believe it is a trust,” Taylor said.

Vic Bergeron noted the city has an opinion on the existence of the trust and going before a judge is a misguided approach.

“He (the judge) is not going to fight the AG,” Bergeron said.

“I think you have to stay with what you started with,” added Councilor Tom Burnham,

The three buildings on Broad Street were shut down in late February when the new community center opened. The council was made aware late last year that the buildings are part of trust established in the 1940s by the late Mary Goodwin that clearly stipulates that their only use can be for recreation. Subsequently, the council instructed Taylor to seek probate court approval to dissolve the trust.

While the petition is pending, the city was told by the Charitable Trusts Unit that the trust restrictions remain in place and the property can only be used for recreational purposes.

In other business last night, the council voted 8-0 to adopt new welfare guidelines that contain two major changes.

The first is that the city will no longer pay security deposits when deciding on eligibility and the second is that all apartments rented to people receiving assistance must pass a city inspection.

The council also approved, 8-0, zoning changes for the city center that were developed by the City Center Steering Committee. The revised ordinances in the geographic area reduces the number of zones from 11 to 6 and are aimed at encouraging redevelopment and rehabilitation of existing structures and construction of new development.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at ogrady56@yahoo.com.