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Making Old Town Hall New Again

Architect offers to purchase, renovate and give Old Town Hall to town for use in perpetuity.

As an architect and engineer, Royce Jarrendt makes a living designing buildings, renovating homes and giving old structures new life.

Now he’s offering to take a piece of Clifton’s history and give it a facelift — all on his dime.

“The building has been sitting without much use for a long time. Some people have put up heroic efforts to keep it up but it just sits there,” Jarrendt said of Old Town Hall, located on Chapel Road across from the Town Meeting Hall.

In the past, Jarrendt said, town groups like the Architectural Review Board and Planning Commission would meet in Old Town Hall. Now the town owns a building that isn’t being used and is starting to show signs of weather damage that, if not repaired, could eventually mean the building is torn down.

“I came up with the idea to purchase the building, rehab the house and put an addition on for small businesses,” Jarrendt said.

In his proposal, Jarrendt would renovate the Old Town Hall building, then build a small addition that could house up to three or for small offices, perhaps enough for 15 to 20 employees. Jarrendt goes one step further, to essentially give the renovated Old Town Hall back to the Town of Clifton for whatever use is required, at the discretion of the Town Council — and he’ll pay for everything.

“In the upstairs, there’d be room for storing the town records, maybe an office for a town official where they could have small meetings,” Jarrendt said.

Currently, the three lots included in the project, Old Town Hall and two lots adjacent to it, are zoned for residential use. If the proposal is approved, Jarrendt would have to submit a rezoning application to the town’s Planning Commission for the zoning to be changed to the newly created light retail use zoning.

JARRENDT BEGAN his work to purchase the Old Town Hall from the town two years ago, under the former Town Council membership. During that time, he provided the Council with a Letter of Intent, which included a two-year study time frame for him to consider purchasing the building. That period of time ends Dec. 31.

The Letter of Intent also states that Jarrendt has a 45-day period following the end of that study time to sign a contract purchasing the building.

Despite two years and nearly half a dozen presentations of his plan, Jarrendt is still waiting for the new Town Council to approve his plans.

“The new councilmembers are looking out for the citizens and making sure this is what they want to do,” Jarrendt said. “I don’t want to be perceived as trying to put myself in a more positive light at all.”

Once the Town Council approves his plan, as Jarrendt and current mayor Tom Peterson believe will happen within the next two months, Jarrendt will have a contract ready to purchase the property.

“So far, everyone I’ve talked to in town and at public hearings have been incredibly positive,” he said.

Peterson said the arrangement would be a “win-win” for Jarrendt and the town alike.

“I can’t speak for the entire council, but I haven’t heard a single town resident speak out against it,” Peterson said.

By agreeing to sell the building to Jarrendt, who will pay for all maintenance to the building, the town gets a new meeting hall and more office space. The bonus is, Peterson said, that they won’t have to pay for it.

“In the different committees we’ve established, everyone wants to make the town more aesthetically pleasing, but that takes money,” Peterson said. “Now we can use the money from the sale of the building for other projects. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

Wayne Nickum, a current member of the Town Council and former mayor, said the property had been vacant since 1974, when the town purchased it for $13,500. The current assessed value for the property is $352,000, and the adjoining lots are assessed for $18,000 and $14,000 each, he said.

“This is beneficial for everyone,” Nickum said. “As it’s proposed, the town gets to use the building forever and ever. That really serves the purpose of why we bought the property to begin with.”

Nickum said he believes the Old Town Hall, when renovated, will include some storage space on the second floor which could house town records.

“The records used to be stored in a small room at the old fire station, but during Hurricane Agnes in 1972, the area got flooded,” he said. “Since then, the records have been stored in individual people’s houses.”

Town Councilmember Lane Johnston said the renovation of the building is in keeping with the council’s dedication to preserving historic structures in the town.

“We need to preserve buildings when we get the chance,” she said. “This is the most cost effective way because the town gets the building and we can enjoy it without having to pay a cent.”

As a small town, Clifton has a distinct personality and architecture that Jarrendt wants to maintain.

“I live and work in town. I have kids that I can see get off the school bus from my office,” said Jarrendt, who works in a second-floor office in the same building at the Post Office. He also lives just across the street.

“The reason I went with the light business use is because I want to keep the traffic down,” Jarrendt said.