BY PAUL LEIGHTON
---- — BEVERLY — The Lynch Park carriage house should soon have some of the best views in the city.
The City Council voted 8-1 last night to approve contributing $100,000 in city money toward improvements to the historic oceanfront building.
The money will be used to install glass doors and windows on the ocean-facing sides of the carriage house, a move that supporters say will transform the building into a sought-after venue for weddings and other revenue-generating events.
“I think it’s an excellent investment,” Councilor Jason Silva said. “It’s going to pay for itself and then some.”
Volunteers have been working for more than a decade to restore the carriage house, the last remaining historic building from the oceanfront estate that the city purchased in 1946.
The city has begun renting out the carriage house for some events, but supporters say giving people views of the ocean from inside the building will boost its desirability.
The money generated by events can be used to further renovate and maintain the carriage house, which will also be used for community and cultural events.
“You can easily do 20 weddings per year at $3,000 each,” said Michael Halle, a member of the Lynch Park Advisory Committee.
Resident Nancy Duda asked if increasing the number of private events would take away from the public’s enjoyment of Lynch Park. Mayor Bill Scanlon responded that it’s not the city’s intention to hold “wall-to-wall weddings.”
“We want to get this to where the building will pay for itself,” he said. “We definitely want to keep the whole thing in balance.”
Ward 6 Councilor Brett Schetzsle was the lone vote against spending city money on the project.
Schetzsle said he supports the concept of fixing the carriage house but said any public money should come from the Community Preservation Act that was passed by voters in November.
The CPA imposes a 1 percent surcharge on property taxes to raise money that must be spent on open space, historic preservation, affordable housing and recreation. It is expected to raise about $750,000 per year in Beverly.
“The question is whether we’re going to spend $100,000 of the general fund money when there is a revenue source waiting to be used for these things,” Schetzsle said. “If these (CPA) funds weren’t there, it would be a different conversation. We told the people of Beverly we don’t have the money in the general fund to do these things.”
Schetzsle said the $100,000 should be used to fix potholes and pave streets.
“I understand that potholes and paving are not sexy, but that’s what people pay their taxes for,” he said.
In response, Scanlon said the CPA money won’t be available for another year and that it must be spent on a variety of areas. Plus, he said the city would like to improve the carriage house in time for the summer season and begin reaping the revenues to further fix the building.
“We have an opportunity to invest and see a positive return in short order,” Scanlon said.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.