by Steve Jusseaume
Hampton Union, March 5, 2004
HAMPTON - When the town gets around to replacing the Exeter Road railroad bridge and reconfiguring the High Street/Exeter Road/Route 1 intersection, purchasing the former Sanel Auto Parts building - seen as necessary in either plan - will cost the town more than it would have a few weeks ago.
Frustrated with the town's failure to act on an offer to sell, building owner Florian Kozinczak has leased the vacant building.
"I had meetings with Mr. (Town Manager James) Barrington. I had meetings with (town attorney) Mark Gearreald, and nothing came of them. I have this empty building; I'm still paying taxes, utility bills to pay ... I couldn't let it sit while the town made up its mind," Kozinczak said this week, after announcing that he has leased the 5,852-square-foot brick building.
Kozinczak said he leased the building to Curves for Women, a gym, for three years, with an additional three-year option. The lease begins on June 1.
Kozinczak said he anticipates major interior renovations will be made, and when the town gets around to negotiating with him on a possible building purchase, the price "will likely be somewhat higher than buying an empty building."
"The town abandoned the process this year, so now they'll have to deal with a building with a tenant in place," he said.
Kozinczak has been negotiating with the town through Barrington since last spring. Kozinczak said he was working with town officials on a negotiated sale. Last August, the property was appraised and talks continued, but this past winter, the Board of Selectmen decided to postpone action on the bridge and intersection until next year at the earliest.
During board discussions, Barrington said that purchasing the land in the downtown area so the intersection could be realigned could cost between $500,000 and $1 million, and board members felt that asking voters for that much money at the same time as school officials are asking for a $26.8-million high school building project was excessive.
Board Chairman Brian Warburton reacted to the news of the lease, saying he is aware that the town might end up paying more for the Kozinczak property, but the town is in no position to buy the building this year.
"Now that it's leased, it might cost the town more to buy the building, but we didn't want to place too big a burden on the taxpayers this year. We wanted to concentrate our efforts on getting the school project passed," Warburton said.
He added, however, that the bridge does need to be upgraded and possibly replaced, sooner or later.
"There's no question that the bridge and the downtown intersection need work. It's going to happen, regardless," Warburton said.