The East Lyme Board of Selectmen meeting last night was unusually packed, but not all of the people in the room were natives. Discussion of the possible purchase of the Samuel Smith House, a historic farm located at 82 Plants Dam Road in East Lyme, brought history buffs from Old Lyme to town in support of the measure.
After many meetings during which proposals were put forth by volunteers who are keen to preserve the property and run it as a historic tourist destination, and after lengthy bargaining with the current property owners, Carol and Stephen Huber, last night the town of East Lyme announced an agreement between the town and the property owners that sets the price at $425,000.
Now there's a deal on the table and First Selectman Paul Formica is empowered to sign off on a 90-day option to purchase.
"I think I heard a positive vote," said Marvin Schutt, who heads the nonprofit organization that is spearheading the proposal to buy the house. "Thank you very, very, very much!"
The historic home includes 17 acres of farmland that may include native American artifacts. The property itself has remained virtually untouched since the early 1700s and local historical preservationists and conservationists are keen to keep it that way. Schutt says his organization has already brought in consultants to determine what needs to be done to restore and maintain the property.
There are a few more hurdles that have to be cleared to seal the deal, however. The Planning Commission will have to investigate and report back on the property to the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Finance and the Board of Selectmen will have to agree to the deal.
A public hearing on the matter will be held at the next board of selectmen meeting on September 19. Then the purchase will go to a town vote, either at a special meeting or in a referendum.
The nonprofit organization formed to preserve the Samuel Smith House hopes to apply for a grant to help fund the purchase and restoration of the the property, the deadline for which is October 26. A $200,000 grant is available from the state if the town matches that amount.
"As we see it, the town would purchase it and lease it to the nonprofit and we will be stewards of it," said Schutt, noting that the nonprofit organization established to run it already has 24 volunteers ready and able to do so.
"We've done everything we possibly can to make everyone comfortable with the idea," he said. "We just need them to say they're going to buy it and we're up and running."