Derry councilors agree to buy downtown building
This week, the council approved the purchase of the property between Central Street and Sawyer Court for $173,000 from the town's land and buildings capital reserve fund.
The town owns several properties in the Sawyer and Abbot Court area, including part of the Difeo Oil site. Anderson said the town is looking at several other properties in the area and then will send out a request for proposals to develop the larger piece of property.
"The council has had as a priority trying to figure out what the best use of the downtown is, and the only way we are going to do that is to take a bigger parcel and then attract developers to make something of it," said town councilor Joel Olbricht. "These are baby steps we are going to be taking. The best way to make the downtown a better place is to create a vision of what this is going to be about."
According to Anderson, it will be about another six months for the town to sort out what other properties it may purchase in the area, with an RFP going out about a month after all the pieces are in place.
"Ultimately, we want to get this on the tax rolls as a productive, redeveloped area," said Brad Benson, council chairman. "But this is a process we need to go through to make this happen."
During the public hearing, former town councilor Janet Fairbanks raised several questions about the cost and future use of the property.
"Is this a done deal?" she asked.
"I don't know what that question means," said Benson.
"Well, are we purchasing it?" Fairbanks asked.
"We are having a public forum, then we are going to have a discussion, then we are going to have a vote, just as we do with everything that comes before us," replied Benson.
Fairbanks noted that the three families living in the building had been evicted, and also asked why the town was paying $173,000 for the property when it is assessed at slightly over $157,000. She also said once the property is purchased, the town will be demolishing the building.
"Not only are you overpaying for this property, but you are taking the most valuable piece down to the ground," Fairbanks said.
Anderson stated that the purchase price for the property was $161,250 with additional costs for an environmental assessment and commissions made in the arrangement to purchase the property.
"We are going to be figuring out who will sell at a price close to what is on the books," said Olbricht. "We're not making up numbers. We have to get an offer that is accepted by the sellers."
Councilor Michael Fairbanks was the only councilor to vote against the purchase.