Friday, May 22, 1998

O'Rourke sale closes into escrow

by Mary Hult

The town is now just one step away from the final closing on the 126-acre parcel off Maple Street owned by the O'Rourke family. According to selectman Michael Fitzgerald, the Purchase and Sale agreement was signed last week and the property was closed into escrow on Monday, May 18. Officials felt this intermediary step was necessary to halt mounting legal expenses related to the acquisition and prevent the developer, who has been standing in the wings, from procuring the parcel.

Fitzgerald explained that the town's attorney is holding a $1.8 million certificate of deposit made out to the O'Rourkes and the town, so interest can be shared. In turn, the O'Rourkes' attorney is holding the deed to the property which is made out to the town of Carlisle. Once conditions have been met, the intermediaries will exchange assets. The remaining obstacle is the final resolution of action between the O'Rourke brothers.

Town Meeting approved purchase of the property in November 1997, but negotiations have been difficult for officials and the town counsel, largely due to the dispute between the brothers, Michael and Tom, over ownership of the land. Last December Michael's attorney was unsuccessful when he sought a ruling in the Middlesex Superior Court to block the sale until his client was assured of receiving what he considered his fair share of the proceeds. Last week, however, a court judgment named the town a party in the dispute. Town counsel believes the matter between the brothers has since been resolved, but the final closing cannot take place until the O'Rourkes return to court, stating the matter has been settled.

Fitzgerald indicated that the escrow period is 30 days, but final closing could occur within two weeks. In the meantime, although town counsel considers Carlisle the legal owner, Fitzgerald asked that residents not go on the property until after the escrow period. He said the O'Rourke family intends to stay on the farm, under a license agreement, until the end of June. Fitzgerald said that the O'Rourkes would oversee security and maintenance of the property until their departure.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is still very interested in acquisition of the land and a representative completed a walk-through this week, according to Fitzgerald.

With the sigh of someone who's nearing the end of a challenging journey, Fitzgerald commented, "The town wanted to preserve the land and we've accomplished that."