EASTHAMPTON — At its Feb. 21 meeting, the Easthampton City Council approved $100,000 in Community Preservation Act funding to study and survey the grounds and building at the Town Lodging House for possible future uses and rehabilitation.

According to Thomas Peake, chair of the Finance Committee, and several other councilors, the property is in significant disrepair. This study would involve field investigations on the property, a survey of the property lines and an analysis of the structural integrity of the building.

“This would help the city determine what the options are,” explained Peake.

The property operated for over 110 years as a poor farm and single-room occupancy building. It also has agricultural, affordable housing and historical deed restrictions meaning the property is limited as to what it can become. Councilors and members of the public also voiced concerns that there may be human remains on the property, from the burials of both those who lived at the farm and indigenous people from the years prior.

Mayor Nicole LaChapelle confirmed that indigenous remains are possible given maps of Easthampton from centuries ago. She also noted that the building itself is in such disrepair because the city, which owns the property, hasn’t put capital into it. She, and several councilors, expressed concerns that the building is a safety issue and not structurally sound.

Councilor Koni Denham, who said that she’d been in the building this year, noted that the property will continue to dilapidate unless something is done to preserve it.

“It’s a mess,” said Denham. “It needs a lot of work.”

One of the possible options for the property could be affordable housing units. Valley Community Development has reached out with a possible plan for the property that would include 12 to 15 studio apartments in the original building and 18 to 20 units in an addition to be put on the original building. However, this is just a possibility and nothing can be decided until the field investigations and survey results are finalized.

Councilor Brad Riley also suggested that the property could become a museum, but LaChapelle said that isn’t possible because of the deed restrictions.

Several residents who live near the property spoke during the public hearing about their experiences living there and concerns about what will happen. They discussed issues with not having enough space for so many housing units and worries about who will be housed there.

There will be a public hearing to further discuss the matter on March 4 at 5 p.m.

Tina Lesniak
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