TORRINGTON — The City Council unanimously approved an agreement with Five Points Gallery this week, according to the minutes of its meeting, allowing the gallery’s plans for the former University of Connecticut-Torrington campus to move forward.

The UConn Board of Trustees voted in December 2018 to sell the property to Five Points Gallery, which plans to create a 220-seat auditorium, a cafe, artists’ residences and outdoor classrooms for children, with the expectation that unimproved areas of the land would be conveyed to the city of Torrington.

Under the agreement approved this week, according to a copy presented to the council, the city reserves the right to purchase undeveloped land on the property from UConn, provided it chooses to do so before Sept. 30, then lease it to Five Points for $1 per year for the next two decades.

If that concept were to move forward, there would be a series of benchmarks for Five Points’ use of the property, including establishing artist workshops, summer classes for high school students and an art park for residents.

If the benchmarks were met, Five Points could then purchase the land for $1 at the end of the 20-year lease; if they were not, the city could sever the agreement.

Five Points Gallery would purchase the portion of the property designated as the campus and an additional 4.5 acres on the east side of University Drive in either circumstance, according to the agreement.

Five Points and the city also agreed to support UConn’s argument in an ongoing legal review, which will determine whether the sale of the property is in accordance with state law.

Former Torrington resident Julia Brooker Thompson donated $650,000 to the university in her will, indicating that the funds be used “for the purchase or construction of a building or buildings in Torrington or in the vicinity of Torrington for use by the Torrington Branch of the University of Connecticut,” according to court records.

The funds were ultimately used to construct a building containing classrooms on the campus, which opened to students in 1965.

The university decided to close it in 2016, as declining enrollment and a dwindling number of staff members left it unable to “provide the same high-quality academic experience” as could be found at other university branches.

In a suit filed to have the matter considered in the courts, Assistant Attorney General Ralph Urban, representing UConn, argues the decision to close the university campus means that it is now “impossible, impracticable or illegal” to comply with Brooker Thompson’s request.

Under state law, a charitable donation “shall forever remain to the uses and purposes to which (it) has been granted according to the the intent and meaning of the grantor and to no other use,” unless it becomes “impossible, impracticable or illegal” to use it in the way the donor wished it to be.

In those cases, Urban said the “equitable doctrine of approximation,” which requires an “alternate charitable use that as nearly as possible approximates” the original intent, is applied.

UConn plans to use the proceeds of the sale, expected to bring in $375,000, to create a scholarship fund for Torrington students. It argues that this scholarship fund complies with the equitable doctrine of approximation, and thus state law.

Connecticut Media Group