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Lunt purchase put off another month

Recorder/Peter MacDonald
The former Lunt Silversmith building on Federal Street in Greenfield.

Recorder/Peter MacDonald The former Lunt Silversmith building on Federal Street in Greenfield.

GREENFIELD — It will be at least another month before the town buys the former Lunt Silversmith property.

Town Council voted unanimously to table a request by the mayor for $1.5 million for the purchase Wednesday night, saying it needs more information about the risks of purchasing the property before it takes a vote.

Mayor William Martin is waiting for word from the attorney general’s office about whether it will grant a covenant that would protect the town from being sued by someone for contamination that might have migrated off the site.

Councilors were asked by the mayor to vote the money without the covenant, because the contract with the Bankruptcy Court, which is handling the sale, has a condition that it will only approve the sale if the town has the money to make the commitment.

Martin said there is also a condition in the contract that protects the town if it does not receive the covenant. He said the sale will only go through if the attorney general grants a covenant, or determines that one is not needed because there is no threat of a lawsuit.

The need for a covenant came about when the Bankruptcy Court, which is handling the sale, recently postponed its approval pending the state attorney general’s office granting the town a covenant that would protect it from being sued for contamination on the property that might have moved off to nearby residents’ properties.

Martin told councilors that the experts that have done hazardous materials assessments on the property for the town have said they are confident that has not happened.

Councilors told the mayor they are still on board to buy the property — Town Council voted to approve the $75,000 down payment late last year — but said they want to see those assessments in writing before voting the $1.5 million.

Once the town gets the covenant and the council votes to approve the $1.5 million, Martin said it should take about 15 days to close the deal.

Town Council President David Singer said the council could always call a special meeting between now and March 20, the council’s next meeting, if needed.

Public hearing

The council held a public hearing before it took its vote. Greenfield Minor League President Bobby Campbell and Greenfield Planning Board Chairwoman Roxann Wedegartner both spoke in favor of the council voting to approve the $1.5 million.

Over the past year, Martin has assured people that the ball fields will remain intact, and that the town will most likely expand that part of the property to build a recreation complex.

There have been no decision on what will replace, or go into, the buildings there, but a new senior center and safety complex have been suggested. The mayor has also talked about retailers or offices moving in there.

The older building will most likely be demolished with the hopes that a developer will rebuild there.

The towns plans to clean up the property before marketing it, and believes that will cost between $600,000 and $800,000. The town believes it can get grants from state agencies, including MassDevelopment, to pay for the cleanup.

The mayor and Robert Pyers, the town’s economic development director, believe it is possible that the federal Environmental Protection Agency might step in and pay for some of the cleanup like it did on the former Bendix property on the Laurel Street extension.

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