Deerfield to put Oxford pickle factory property up for sale

DEERFIELD — The town is putting the former Oxford pickle factory property up for sale at the end of the month and leaving it up to prospective buyers to propose ideas for the site.

At this point, the selectmen have no use in mind.

“It’s up to the prospective purchasers to propose a use,” said Town Administrator Bernie Kubiak.

The 16.3-acre century-old property on Jewett Avenue is within an expedited permitting zone, which leaves it open to many options. An expedited permitting zone allows a potential buyer to propose a broad range of uses and receive necessary permits within six months from the Board of Selectmen.

In 2007, the town took out a $1.7 million loan to buy the former pickle factory with the intention of developing it. The factory had closed in the spring of 2006. Since that time, residents have been paying off the loan.

The property has remained unchanged over the years with no developments. The town Highway Department currently uses a portion of the property to store equipment.

The coming sale coincides with the town’s request for contractor bids to build a new 15,500-square-foot town highway garage, another project that had taken years to bring to this stage. The town plans to put a new highway garage on 21∕2 acres of the Oxford property, south of the existing facility.

This portion of the factory land will remain in the hands of the town. The remaining 12 acres would be up for sale.

So far, the town doesn’t have an asking price of the property and it has to have the property appraised again. The property also needs to be surveyed to determine what would be town property for the highway garage and what part is available for sale.

In 2007, the price for the property was $2.2 million. The town bought it for $250,000 under the appraised value.

Although the selectmen are leaving it up to developers to propose ideas, any developer would still have to comply with contractual obligations contained in the deed. Any use proposed would be subjected to permitting and review by the selectmen, Kubiak explained.

Located close to downtown, the property has traditionally been a source of jobs and taxes in the town. But since the town purchased it, each year the town loses $40,000 a year in property taxes on the property.

The intent of the sale is to put as much of the property back onto the tax rolls as possible, Kubiak said. Three years ago, the Oxford Redevelopment Committee, which was charged with advising the selectmen on the site’s redevelopment, suggested two options for the site — a light industrial plant or a multi-use mix of retail office and residential space.

“Between these two, there is lots of room for proposals,” Kubiak said.

Affordable or senior housing was also considered a possibility, but the committee decided that housing alone is not desirable for the property. Housing is envisioned as a secondary use. It would have to coincide with another use, such as retail or office space.

The Jewett family began producing pickles at the location in 1896 and since then owners had come and gone, but pickles and peppers had continued to be packed at 15 Jewett Ave. until May 2006. The factory employed 65 workers.

In 1955, Cains Foods purchased the operation. The last owner was Oxford Foods made up of the former president and chief executive officer of Cains Pickles, Jeffrey Morse, Hatfield farmer Stephen Bruscoe Sr., Sunderland farmer Donald Patterson, Hatfield farmer Bernie Smiarowski and Harvest Farm of Whately.

When the factory shuttered its doors, Bay Valley Foods, a Green Bay, Wis. pickle supplier, purchased Oxford Foods’ list of clients and inventory, but not the factory or the land.

Over the years, the property has been eyed by developers and business owners, but nothing has ever come to fruition. In the summer of 2006, Whately potato farmer James Pasiecnik offered to buy the property for $1.2 million, but the sale never went through. Then in 2010, Vern Harrington, owner of Thayer Street Associates Inc., expressed interest, but again nothing came of it.

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