WILMINGTON, MA – In response to multiple requests for a status update made by Selectwoman candidate Suzanne Sullivan, Town Manager Jeff Hull provided some new information on the town’s efforts to acquire Sciarappa Farm on Andover Street.
“There’s been discussions with [the property owner’s attorney] Mr. Crolwey, but… there hasn’t been any discussion over the last month-a-half,” Hull told Sullivan at Monday night’s Selectmen’s Meeting during “Public Comments.”
“There are a lot of rumors flying around right now that there’s been developers in at Town Hall to talk to town department heads about developing the site,” noted Sullivan.
“With respect to potential developers talking to representatives of the town, that HAS been the case,” acknowledged Hull. “There haven’t been any concrete details involved. The conversations have been very preliminary at this point. What I can tell you is there’s been individuals who have been looking to find out what level of support, if any, the town would offer [to a potential development on Sciarappa Farm], and the town has made no commitments. That’s where we are on that.”
“Is there any hope for the town to get that property or is there no hope?,” asked Sullivan. “I don’t know what else we’re going to do in the future when we have crunches for field space, or open space.”
“This ultimately becomes a matter of priorities,” responded Hull. “As came out of the facilities plan, there’s approximately $143 million of costs associated either with upgrading existing buildings (most of them built in the 50’s and 60’s) or replacing buildings. All of those projects that need to be looked at some point in time. With any situation the town deals with, there are more demands than there are resources to pay for these things…How does acquisition of the Sciarappa Farm stand in comparison to some of these other projects, such as a new substation? There are a number of priorities. There needs to be some consensus in terms of where the acquisition of Sciarappa Farm stands in that mix.”
“I understand there’s always going to be demands for buildings. You can always build. You can’t build open space. Once it’s gone it’s gone forever,” responded Sullivan. “It’s nice that those conversations are happening internally, but I think the time has come to ask the residents what they think.”
Sullivan asked if the Town had done an appraisal of the Sciarappa Farm property.
“There has been an appraisal done. That’s not public record at this point because we’re still in discussion. Providing that information isn’t going to be helpful in our efforts to negotiate,” responded Hull. “We can’t engage in discussions like this in a public forum. It doesn’t work that way… The appraisal is used as a basis of the discussion with the property owner.”
Hull added the value placed on the property by the owner is “pretty steep.”
“Not to divulge Executive Session discussions, but the price is awfully substantial,” agreed Selectman Chair Kevin Caira.“All the board members seem to think it’s extremely high priced.”
“So I’m hearing Sciarappa Farm isn’t a priority?,” responded Sullivan.
“What you’re hearing is this has been a focus of attention, but we can’t view this potential acquisition in a vacuum. There are many other issues that need to put into the mix,” answered Hull.
“Well, it seems like the other issues are more of a priority than Sciarappa Farm,” shot back Sullivan.
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