Friday, September 17, 1999
Bank bites on town bid for old St. Irene land
The board of selectmen announced on September 9 that North Middlesex Savings Bank has accepted an offer from the town for the purchase of the former Saint Irene Church on Bedford Road. The $245,000 offer was made contingent on Town Meeting approval, a debt override, a 21E report and a Title 5 examination. The property will be acquired for general municipal purposes.
Board chair Doug Stevenson stated in the announcement that the selectmen felt strongly about the purchase and that it represented a significant opportunity for the town to acquire land in the town center. While purchase of the property is consistent with the goals of the municipal land committee, the selectmen acted without a formal recommendation from this committee.
The selectmen unanimously voted to make the offer at the executive session of August 17, minutes of which were released at the board's meeting on September 14. The board held all discussions about the proposed purchase in executive session. "We thought it was in the town's best interest to hold talks in executive session," explained Stevenson.
"We weren't trying to be clandestine," said selectman Michael Fitzgerald after the meeting. "An opportunity came up and we acted on it." Referring to the voter approval contingency, Fitzgerald added, "We've done nothing but tie up the property until Town Meeting gets a chance to discuss it." Stevenson said that no deposit has been made in connection with the accepted offer.
"Time was a real issue in this case and we had to work quickly in order to preserve options for the town," added selectman Vivian Chaput in a follow-up phone conversation. Chaput explained that the selectmen learned prior to the offer that the bank had just dissolved a prior agreement on the property and that there were other interested parties.
Chaput further said that she foresees that proceeds from the sale of a town-owned lot off East Riding Drive could be used to offset the purchase price of the Saint Irene property.
"Ultimately, the decision to purchase the 72 Bedford Road property lies with Town Meeting and the electorate on an override question," stated Stevenson in the announcement of the proposed purchase. He continued, however, "The board intends to communicate its interest in this land to town residents and to actively support its acquisition." Stevenson said that the municipal land committee is working on recommendations for the use of the property and that it might not be used for several years.
Selectmen discussed that voters will be asked to approve the purchase price of $245,000 increased by legal costs associated with the acquisition and at least $20,000 for cleanup and maintenance of the property.
Selectmen also stressed that the purchase of the Bedford Road property at significantly less than the asking price is not connected in any way to the bank's efforts to acquire other property in town for the operation of a branch office. "It is very clear that these are two separate deals," said selectman John Ballantine.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito