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Old Kingston School Closer To Getting New Life

Kingston School2

The long-shuttered Kingston School may soon get new life as a private school.


There are still a couple regulatory hurdles to overcome, but all indications are that the long-shuttered Kingston School will soon once again be a center of learning.

Plans call for the school, located on Laurel Avenue in Kingston, to be leased by the Tuchman Foundation for 24 years. The foundation plans to sub-lease most of the space to a private school, but will also make a meting room available to the public.

Township manager Robert Vornlocker told the Open Space Advisory Committee at its Sept. 15 meeting that the foundation plans to spend $1.5 million to $2 million in renovating the building, which has been closed for about a decade.

That’s quite a turnaround from a few years ago, Vornlocker said, when plans were to raze part of the structure.

The proposed lease has been approved by the state Green Acres Program, needed because the land was purchased with Green Acres funds. Since then, the property has been used as a park with facilities for baseball, basketball and a Tot Lot.

Although the lease has been generally approved, some “minor issues” still need to be worked out, said Fran Varacalli, the township’s open space consultant. After that, she said, the proposed lease has to be approved by the State Historic Preservation Office.

The lease for a time was a sticking point for Green Acres approval, mainly because two of its terms – the 24-year term and the granting of right of first refusal to the foundation at its expiration – are not usually approved by the program.

The lease was initially  problem because “once lands are acquired with Green Acres funds, they’re obligated to continue to be used for recreation and conservation purposes in perpetuity,” Bob Considine, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said in an email.

Considine said in the email that the second issue was a concern to the program because “(a) future diversion – the why, the what for and to who – is ultimately decided by the Statehouse Commission. It’s not something we’d even have the authority to pre-condition or stipulate.”

Vornlocker told the committee that the 24-year lease is “the longest lease ever approved by Green Acres.”

Vornlocker credited Varcalli and Township Councilman Ted Chase (D-Ward 1) with working to get the lease approved.


 

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