By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Westborough – The members of the town’s Historical Commission had stern words for town officials after the commission agreed to delay by 180 days a request to tear down a town-owned property. That decision was rendered in a public hearing held Feb. 12 at the Westborough Public Library. Speaking in front of approximately 30 residents, most of whom shared the commission’s thoughts on the process, Hazel Nourse, the commission’s chair, said “many mistakes” had been made as the board of selectmen sought to first sell and then decide to take down the Spurr House, located at 7 Parkman St.
After the American Legion Stowell-Parker Post 163 moved out of the circa-1850s house in 2014, where they had been meeting for nearly 70 years, the selectmen had tried to sell the property. But the first Request for Proposal (RFP) was pulled and then a revised one was put out after some confusion over where exactly the property’s borders were in relation to the neighboring Forbes Municipal Building property. And in response to a citizens petition, a committee was approved at the March 2015 Town Meeting to review and make recommendations for the property’s use as well.
According to Town Manager Jim Malloy, as required by state law, a listing was also placed in the Central Register advertising that the property was for sale, and a letter was twice sent to local Realtors; only one responded with any interest. The listing was also posted on the town’s website. Only one bid was received, for $115,000; that was rejected by the selectmen as they said it was not close enough to the property appraisal of $250,000.
As a result, the selectmen asked the Historical Commission to approve a demolition permit so that the town could build what the selectmen said was a “much needed parking lot for the downtown area.”
Selectman Ian Johnson, representing the board at the Feb. 12 meeting, said the town officials were not interested in continuing the process of seeking a new buyer as they felt they had sufficiently advertised that the property was for sale.
But those in attendance at the meeting said they felt the selectmen has not done enough due diligence in getting the word out, adding that a “For Sale” sign should have been placed on the property, allowing passersby to know about the matter. Many also said the town should have accepted the bid of $115,000. Others stated that there was “plenty of parking already” and that by tearing down the building, it would leave an “ugly hole” in the historic downtown area.
In making their determination to issue a 180 day delay on the demolition permit, the commission’s members said they felt there had been too much confusion around the RFP process.
“This has been a lesson to the town – there should be more public participation,” Nourse said.