KIMBALL CASTLE PUBLIC FORUM - RESCHEDULEDPosted Feb 21, 2014
DATE: February 5, 2014 (Revised as of February 21, 2014)
SUBJECT: Kimball Castle
In March of 2013, the Gilford Board of Selectmen was notified by the Town’s Building Inspector that Kimball Castle was a hazardous building that posed a threat to public safety because of the constant parade of trespassers who enter the building illegally. This determination was made as a result of observations that walls were shifting outwards and several archway keystones were missing. On April 10, 2013, the Selectmen voted unanimously to authorize the private owners of Kimball Castle to tear the castle down.
Since that time, the Selectmen have extended the deadline to comply with the Building Inspector’s “make safe” order on three occasions, and the owners now have until April 30, 2014 to comply. In addition, the Selectmen held a public hearing on August 14, 2013, at which time there were about a dozen people, (some who were not Gilford residents) who testified that Kimball Castle should be saved. Unfortunately, some inaccurate press reports followed that indicated the Town was going to tear the Castle down; however, the facts are (1) Kimball Castle is privately owned and (2) the Selectmen, in their role as Trustees of the Kimball Wildlife Trust and former owners of the Castle property, simply gave consent for the unsafe structure to be removed.
In the meantime, the Selectmen suggested to a group of concerned citizens that they submit a petition warrant article for the voters at the 2014 Annual Town Meeting if there was a desire to spend Town money (or take some other action) to save Kimball Castle. The petition deadline was January 14 and nothing was submitted.
Meanwhile, the Selectmen have been working in non-public session with the Town Administrator and current owners of the Kimball Castle to negotiate a resolution to eliminate uncertainty over easements, develop a plan to pay off the mortgage that is held by the Town, obtain ownership of some Kimball Castle relics for a suitable monument while preserving other artifacts for future generations, and ultimately allow for the private development of the Kimball Castle property for one single family home that would substantially contribute to the Town’s tax base.
Recently, the Selectmen have been approached by some concerned citizens with a request to consider purchasing Kimball Castle property using a combination of grant funds, donations and Trust Funds so the castle can be allowed to naturally collapse and the 20.35 acres of private property can be re-merged with the Town’s remaining 179 acres. The cost to accomplish this would be somewhere between $500,000 and $700,000.
As the stewards of the Town’s prudential affairs, we believe this “investment” is not in the Town’s best interest, especially when we consider the cumulative costs of Town ownership, (to include having to manage the care of several other structures, dealing with inevitable trespassers, potential liabilities, and the loss of tax revenues) for the sake of a dilapidated castle that would cost a fortune to rebuild. We would also like to note that although nearly a year has passed since Kimball Castle’s pending demolition was brought to the public’s attention; the Selectmen have received very little public feedback in support of allocating Town resources to “Save Kimball Castle”.
Despite the fact that the Selectmen have been accused by one well-intentioned citizen of a lack of leadership regarding these circumstances, we are of the opinion that the time has come for the citizens of Gilford to know that the Board of Selectmen is unanimous in its desire to allow Kimball Castle to be torn down safely with a goal of allowing this privately owned property to remain on the tax rolls and that the land be developed as one single family home while a plan is formalized for a suitable memorial of the castle on Town land.
Lastly, we cordially invite the citizens of Gilford to attend a public forum on this matter to be held at the Gilford Town Hall on Wednesday, April 9 at 7pm to express your thoughts and suggestions on the proper role of the Town on how to deal with the Kimball Castle.