Town will not buy Lunt; ball fields up in air
GREENFIELD — The town has decided not to buy the former Lunt Silversmith property, but will go after about $500,000 owed on it in back taxes.
The problem is, town officials say, that this leaves everyone wondering the fate of the three ball fields, and the entire property, which is currently in the Bankruptcy Court.
Greenfield Director of Economic Development Robert Pyers said Wednesday that negotiations with the owner of the property fell through, so the town will try to recoup the back taxes, the $75,000 deposit it paid when the mayor signed the original purchase and sale agreement, and possibly some of the grant money it spent to begin remediation to clean up contamination found on the Federal Street property.
Pyers said the town has hired a bankruptcy attorney to help the town navigate through the process ahead, whatever that might end up being.
The town signed a purchase and sale agreement that expired at the end of March. It had since been in negotiations to come up with another agreement, but was unsuccessful.
Pyers and Mayor William Martin, who went to Town Council and were approved the $1.5 million they needed to seal the deal with Lunt and the Bankruptcy Court, told councilors the sale would not go through unless the state issued a covenant that would protect the town from neighbors of the property suing over contamination.
The covenant had not yet been issued and Pyers said that the owners of the property now wanted $100,000 more than the town was willing to pay.
“We have budget constraints,” said Pyers. “We’ve also been concerned about the marketability of the older piece of property, where the old factory is located.”
Pyers said another piece of the puzzle the town wanted in place before it moved ahead with any deal was an application to the state for a park grant that would have paid for the parcel where the three ball fields are located.
The town, since the purchase and sale agreement expired in March, had decided it wanted to buy the parcel where the design center is located and the parcel where the ball fields are located separately from the parcel where the old factory is located.
Pyers said it was going to be too late to get the grant to purchase the ball field piece, because the application had to be in by the end of the month.
The town then planned to acquire the factory parcel by a friendly tax title taking.
Pyers said Lunt wanted to change the financial terms of the agreement to cover expenses it has incurred since the agreement with the town expired.
“It’s unfortunate, but we just weren’t willing to do that,” said Pyers.
He said the town will honor its civic responsibility to the neighbors of Lunt by making sure that the property is cleaned up.
“We’ll pursue whatever we have to make sure of that,” he said.
Pyers said it could mean that the federal Environmental Protection Agency will step in and help as it did on the former Bendix property, or maybe even the state Department of Environmental Protection will help.
Pyers said a tax title taking could still be an option.
He said what the town doesn’t want to happen is the owner sell the uncontaminated portion of the property and then abandon the contaminated portion, leaving the town with it.
“This is all going to be subject to litigation,” said Pyers.