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Wanted: Good owners

Montague to offer up former Strathmore Mill,  Miller Falls properties

Aerial view of Strathmore Sunday afternoon. 07/05/27 Bird's Eye Views/Franz

Aerial view of Strathmore Sunday afternoon. 07/05/27 Bird's Eye Views/Franz Purchase photo reprints »

MONTAGUE — Next week, two town properties taken for back taxes, the former Strathmore Mill and a chunk of downtown Millers Falls, will be put forward for adoption.

Town Planner Walter Ramsey said two requests for proposals will be issued Wednesday, offering each of the properties piecemeal, for free or a nominal fee, under the town’s homesteading program.

The program, developed by Town Administrator Frank Abbondanzio, essentially offers unwanted properties to a good owner, one willing to take on the costs associated with those buildings.

“Just getting the property in the hands of somebody who is going to do something productive with it is the most valuable thing the town can have right now; that will prevent the town from having to sink more money into these buildings,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey said proposals will be evaluated on the level of investment, whether the use is compatible with the surroundings, designs for facade improvements and whether the applicant can demonstrate they have the money to back their plans.

The homesteading process allows the town greater control over to whom the decaying properties go, according to Ramsey.

“The alternative that the town has is to just put the properties up for auction, at which point you don’t know who the buyer’s going to be and we’ve had a history of buyers who have been less than advantageous to the town,” he said.

The former Strathmore Paper Mill, on the canal in Turners Falls, is an all but vacant complex taken for back taxes in 2008.

An asbestos-contaminated debris pile left by a 2007 arson is scheduled for cleanup in the coming months, at a cost of approximately $189,000 to the town, with the remaining $200,000 to be paid through a grant.

The complex will be offered in three segments, the first the relatively intact Building 11.

Ramsey said if he had to speculate what any proposals will be for that building, in which two groups of artists — one from New York and one from Northampton — have already expressed interest.

The Millers Falls property is a block of land with four buildings at the corner of Bridge and East Main streets, identified as 26-28, 30 and 34 East Main St. taken by the town last year for nonpayment of taxes.

Ramsey said the property will be offered in three parcels; the three larger buildings with the smaller garage parcel to be attached to one.

Town Meeting members in October gave the Board of Selectmen authority to dispose of the property as they saw fit.

Both properties have cost taxpayers for legal, maintenance, cleanup and other expenses.

Ramsey said the town is not looking to recoup its losses but to prevent further loss.

“If you’re looking to try to make up the cost through the sale of the property ... we honestly feel that we’re not going to sell the property,” Ramsey said.

The request for proposal documents should be issued Wednesday and will be posted on the town website.

Turners Falls restaurant Ristorante DiPaolo is an example of the homesteading process.

Denise DiPaolo purchased the vacant, town-owned building at 166 Avenue A in 2005 for $1 and the promise to renovate the building in keeping with its historic character, and has been open for business since 2006.

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