June 14, 2016
To: Lebanon Residents
From: Board of Selectman and Jonathan Trumbull Library Building Committee
Re: Status of the Jonathan Trumbull Library Renovation Project
The Lebanon Green, one of the longest and certainly most beautiful in New England and likely the country, has a long standing historical presence. In fact, this beautiful piece of property was placed in the National Historic Register of Historic Places in the early 1970ís in recognition of its historical significance in Colonial days and the days of the Revolutionary War. The Green is a beautiful monument to Lebanonís past. As a municipality, we are the fortunate recipients of its beauty. The Green has been used by residents and visitors alike for a multitude of events and activities over the years and the Town has acted as a steward of the property.
Historically, the Lebanon Green went nearly to Mack Road on the North, and Waterman Road on the South. Over the years, the Town has used the Green for schools, town halls, the library, and a ballfield. Present municipal buildings on the Green include the Jonathan Trumbull Library, the Town Hall, and the Public Works Garage.
The Town has long maintained these properties and the area immediately surrounding them for the public. In the late 1960ís our town benefactor financially provided a portion of the necessary capital for the Jonathan Trumbull Library to be built in its current location. He also supported a later addition, bringing the library to the size it is today.
In May 2015, residents approved, through a referendum vote, a long overdue renovation to the Library, which included additional space for programs and materials, community space, updated rest room facilities, thorough renovation of the spaces originally built in 1960ís and 1970ís and ensuring the building meets all ADA compliance regulations. Funding for this project included a grant from the Connecticut State Library Construction Program, a contribution from the Hugh Trumbull Adams Trust and the balance to come from a bond issue.
In early April 2016, the Town was informed that the engineering firm retained for the project was unable to provide a certified survey because they could not find title to the property in the land records, except for a small portion of the Green, less than ľ acre nearest to the intersection of Exeter Road and Trumbull Highway.
When the Board of Selectmen became aware of this development in April, upon advice of the Town Counsel, Waller, Smith & Palmer, we retained the services of an historical researcher well regarded in New London County. His title search report confirmed that the Town has record title to less than ľ acre on the Green. The Town does not have title to any other property on the Green, including the locations of the Town Hall and the Public Works facility. The land is owned by the heirs and assigns of the 51 original proprietors of the Green. Rough estimates indicate this could be well over 10,000 people.
For many residents this may come as a surprise. Residents see a well maintained Green with a walking path, an ice skating pond in the winter, areas immediately near the path mowed, the antique show, summer fest event, bonfire at holiday time, parking for the library and the walking path, location of events after the parade, Town buildings with parking, and the list goes on. For residents familiar with the history of Lebanon, however, specifically regarding the Green and colonial history, this news will not come as a surprise.
The library project has now been caught up in this land title issue. Over the course of years, regulatory requirements have increased for most things, including for new construction and renovations, and for residential, commercial or municipal improvements. For the Library project, these increased regulatory requirements have had a direct impact, as many require proof of title and the signature of the property owner. The Town is unable to provide this for most of the land of the approved Library building project. As such, the project will be delayed. Estimates from Counsel indicate a delay will be at least 12 months to 18 months, dependent upon the strategy of the Board of Selectman. The Board of Selectmen and the Library Building Committee believes it is imperative that we keep the residents apprised of the status of this project. We are attempting to rectify this significant issue and we are calling upon not only our legal counsel but also the Townís representatives in government to find a reasonable solution. Once we have additional information as to the next steps we will share it with all of you.