Voters approve Schlumberger leases

The Board of Selectmen — tasked with selling the Schlumberger property the town bought back in December 2011 — breathed a sigh of relief Wednesday night when voters approved a pair of $1-a-year leases that the selectmen have worked on over the last several months.

Under the proposed leases, which more than 130 residents unanimously voted to approve, the Philip Johnson Building will be rented to BassamFellows — a New Canaan-based design firm — and the property's theater will be rented to Ridgefield-based ACT of Connecticut.

“In order to protect quality of life in Ridgefield and control the destiny of that property we felt we had to purchase it for $6 million,” said First Selectman Rudy Marconi at the Board of Selectmen meeting Wednesday Feb. 22.

The buildings need expensive renovations, but the town wants to retain control of the property and preserve the history of the Philip Johnson building.

Both leases are initially $1-a-year in consideration of the substantial work needed to bring both buildings into usable, up-to-code spaces.

Later in the renewal terms, both leases revert to market rates appropriate for a private business, like BassamFellows, and a non-profit organization, like ACT of CT.

In the case of BassamFellows, the lease rate jumps to over $100,000 in year 14. For ACT of CT, the lease rate increases to $24,000 in year 15.

During the initial and renewal terms, both organizations will pay all maintenance, utility and liability insurance as well as common charges.

Theater changes

Selectman Steve Zemo clarified that the theater company would not be able to make any changes without proposing them to the Planning and Zoning Commision and the Board of Selectmen first.

But, he did say the permitted use of the building in the lease is not specific to solely putting on plays.

“We’re not going to regulate what they do within the genre of theater,” said Zemo.

“They’re not selling Chinese food of course, unless that suddenly becomes very theatrical.”

First Johnson building

As for the Philip Johnson Building, Marconi said the historic structure — the first commercial one Johnson ever built — has sustained vast amounts of water damage and requires expensive repairs.

“If any of you think these buildings are gorgeous and ready to go to work, believe me they need a lot of work,” he said.