Lunt property: To buy or not to buy

Town Council  to vote tonight on purchase of former silversmith property

The EPA is going to test the site of the former Lunt Silversmith property on Federal Street. 
Recorder file photo

The EPA is going to test the site of the former Lunt Silversmith property on Federal Street. Recorder file photo

GREENFIELD — Town Council will vote tonight on whether to borrow $1.5 million so the town can buy the former Lunt Silversmith property on Federal Street.

It will take a two-thirds vote, or eight “yes” votes, to pass.

The council will meet in the studio in Greenfield Community Television at 7 p.m. Before it takes its vote, the council will hold a public hearing and allow residents a chance to weigh in on the issue.

Mayor William Martin said he isn’t expecting any surprises, because the council voted a couple of months ago to approve $75,000 for the town’s down payment on the property.

Martin and the town’s Economic Development Director Robert Pyers had hoped to close the deal by late March, but it seems that won’t happen until later in April.

Pyers said the Bankruptcy Court, which is handling the sale, has postponed its approval of the sale until the town hears from the state attorney general’s office.

The town has asked the attorney general to issue a covenant so that the town could not be sued over contamination on the property, which happened well before the town will take ownership.

Martin said the town plans to clean up the property as soon as it takes ownership, but wants to make sure no one can sue Greenfield in the meantime, or while cleanup is going on.

Pyers estimates the cost of cleanup will be between $600,000 and $800,000. He said cleanup will be paid for with financing and grants from MassDevelopment, a state agency.

The mayor and Pyers said there is even a possibility that the federal Environmental Protection Agency would step in and pay for some of the cleanup like it did on the former Bendix property on the Laurel Street extension.

“This postponement isn’t that big a deal,” said Pyers. “We planned on closing on the property in late March, and instead it might be mid to late April. We’re confident we’ll get the covenant and move forward as planned.”

Pyers said the good news about the postponement is that it gives the town even more time to identify all of its funding sources and be ready to go as soon as it takes ownership.

If the council votes to approve the $1.5 million for purchase, the town will be able to move quickly when it hears from the attorney general’s office and the Bankruptcy Court.

Pyers said the town plans to clean up the property, because it will make it much more appealing to potential developers when the town begins marketing the former factory.

He said the town is currently identifying which parts of the buildings should be demolished versus renovated.

Pyers said the next step for the town, which it will take even before it hears from the attorney general, will be to have an engineer do an analysis of the older building there.

He said the engineer will determine what the phases of demolition should be so that it can be put out to bid as soon as the town owns the property.

Martin hopes to put the property back on the tax rolls, while preserving the baseball fields there, something residents have asked him to do since the town started talking about Lunt a couple of years ago.

Marjorie Lane Kelly, the town’s finance director, told councilors last month that the town intends to borrow short-term and pay interest only for the first two years. Then, she said, the town would renegotiate a loan.

The town and Lunt both had appraisals done on the property to come up with a selling price. The town’s came in at $2,270,000 and Lunt’s came in at $2,170,000.

“There will be some impact to the taxpayer,” said Kelly, but added it would be “negligible” for the first two years and would not be huge after that. She said exact figures are yet to come.

Martin and Pyers said they will eventually look to the Town Council to rezone the property, which is currently zoned general industrial. They would like it to be zoned limited commercial-urban residential so that it is consistent with the surrounding area.

Martin and Pyers said there is a possibility the town could lease space in the newer buildings until the town finds someone to redevelop the property.

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