Mont Vernon selectmen: Karate studio has to go

MONT VERNON – About 15 people filled the selectmen’s meeting room Monday night to urge board members to reverse their decision to evict a popular karate studio from the town-owned McCollom Building.

But the board is sticking with its plan, said Selectman Jim Whipple, and it was not a snap decision.

“We’ve been thinking about it for a year, year and a half,” he said Tuesday morning.

Jim Peacock’s Mont Vernon Karate Studio has been on the second floor for almost a quarter of a century, and the town’s letter of eviction gives him until June 30 to vacate the space.

Along with the need for more space for town functions, safety is an issue, Whipple said, because the Mont Vernon Police Department is on the first floor and children must pass near the police office to get to the studio.

On Monday night Police Chief Kevin Furlough cited state laws regarding police department safety issues, Whipple said.

Wesley Sonner, one of the residents who would like the studio to stay where it is, and on Tuesday morning he was disappointed.

“We asked them to pass a motion to reverse the eviction until the town has a concrete plan to renovate or use the space,” he said. “Then we could come together as a town with Jim” and figure out a plan.

If safety is a big concern, why give Peacock six months to get out, asked Sonner.

The board made its decision in December, and the vote was 2-1, with John Quinlan dissenting.

This is the second time in recent months that selectmen have gone against the wishes of residents, he said. Last fall the board voted to ban the use of fireworks without a permit.

Peacock said the idea of opening a studio somewhere else is bittersweet.

“The town has been really good to me,” he said, and “so generous” in allowing him to use the space.

The board’s letter of eviction gave no reason, he said, and it also said he could use selectmen as a reference when looking for a new studio.

With two children in college, Peacock is anxious about finding new space, because parents sign their children up for karate in the spring, and he’ll need a bigger enrollment to cover the cost of higher rent.

The Mont Vernon Karate Studio began as a small club in 1991. The building had been in great need of repair, he said, and with “grass-roots support,” he was able to spend $5,000 to bring it up to fire code, with emergency lighting, exit signs, new footings for the fire escape and other improvements.

He says on his Facebook page, “I have seen many a success story come out of our school. It has been my second home. I have raised all 3 of my children there.

“But I also believe that this is the best thing that could happen to our school. We are currently trying to move to a beautiful new facility in Amherst, only 8 minutes away.

“Any current MVKS member that follows us will receive a permanent locked in rate. You’re loyalty can’t be overstated, and for all of the many, many former members who came through the doors of MVKS for a couple lessons, or a couple thousand, I thank you for providing me the opportunity to share my knowledge and philosophy with you. It’s been a great ride, and I can’t wait for the next chapter.”

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@nashua