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A residential property that was badly burned in March 2016 spurred hot debate on the floor of special Town Meeting on Oct. 15.
With the approval of voters, the property of Liz Adams at 63 Main St. is in the process of being purchased by the town for $600K. Winning Adams’ private bid and securing approval from special Town Meeting was a coup for selectmen who unanimously recommended the purchase.
The measure seeking $700K passed with a two-thirds majority vote, 213 to 68. It asked voters to “authorize the Board of Selectmen to acquire, by gift, purchase, eminent domain or otherwise, on such terms and conditions as the Board shall deem appropriate, for general municipal purposes, a parcel of land located at 63 Main Street,…” In addition t to the purchase price, another $100K was added for contingency and for reparation fees necessary to secure the building and to remove a dangerous tree. When fire raced through the attic a couple of years ago, the inside of the building was left exposed to the elements and must now be fixed.
“Why are we doing this?” said Hazelton in a presentation to special Town Meeting. “In a nutshell we’re trying to buy options. This is a distinctive building that’s been in the town center for 120, 130 years. We want to be able to control what happens to that property…”
The property sits on 2.93 acres next to the town-owned Roudenbush Community Center building and a few properties away from Town Hall in the center. With parking spaces tight for large town center gatherings, and more space needed to house such town entities as the School Department, the purchase has the potential to solve problems.
But not everyone is happy.
Dana Barisano who lives across from the Adams’ property at 62 Main St., stood up at Town Meeting to voice opposition, objecting to the vagueness of the phrase “general municipal purpose.”
“I oppose owning or being involved in putting a municipal building at 63 Main St…” he said. “I believe your motion just leaves it too broad in terms of what can happen to that piece of property.”
Barisano noted that many Main Street property owners have restored the historic homes along the street. He lobbied for an individual family to purchase the property, saying a municipal building would remove “a little bit of the soul of the town.”
But Hazelton said that any capital spending regarding the property would go before Town Meeting.
“This decision tonight does not bind us to any particular outcome. But I can guarantee you, it does bind us to, if we want to do anything to it, we’re back here in a year or two to get your blessing,” said Hazelton.
The response did not quell Barisano.
“…the challenge that I have with that statement is that you’re $700K in the hole and you won’t be able to go to market with that price because it was a private bid. It never went on the open market…,” he said.
Bob Boonstra asked if the town were required to get an appraisal before making a purchase.
Hazelton said an appraisal would only be required if the town were using Community Preservation funds which is not the case.
Harry “Buzz” Gillogly asked a series of pragmatic questions aligned with Barisano’s objections.
“When this house burned down was there insurance on the property? Does the $600K purchase price account for that?” he said…”Has the committee considered the loss of revenue from the property?…I’d like to point out that this property would be prime property for buyers. Are we pre-empting that opportunity?”
But Dave Earl spoke in support of the purchase.
“It would solve a major problem we have at Town Hall, in that we do not have enough parking,” he said.
The property closing is scheduled for Nov. 16.
UPDATE – The number of votes cast was added to the story and a typographical error corrected. A redundant sentence was eliminated.