By Stuart Foster, Contributing Writer
MARLBOROUGH – Marlborough Mayor Arthur Vigeant requested in a letter dated Sept. 23 that the City Council authorize the purchase of property at 100 Locke Dr. This comes amid ongoing efforts to build a new fire station in Marlborough’s west side area.
Vigeant specifically asked to transfer roughly $5.093 million from the city’s stabilization
account to its Land Acquisition account in order to make the purchase.
City Council refers purchase question to subcommittee
A fire station study previously determined that a new station on the city’s west side was
necessary to improve public safety and emergency response time in that area. The city has since already purchased land on Elm Street while zeroing in on the corner of Elm and Bigelow Street as a potential home for this new station.
100 Locke Dr. is a larger property behind that parcel that the city already owns.
“The Council recently approved the acquisition of a needed parcel of land on Elm Street and the City will now need to acquire the adjacent location at 100 Locke Dr. to house a new fire station and accommodate housing, administration, training, vehicle, and equipment storage,” Vigeant wrote in a letter to the City Council. “The design will be determined, and access is intended to be from Locke Drive.”
The City Council voted by a 9-1 margin on Sept. 27 to refer the Mayor’s communication to the Finance Committee.
Lawyer threatens ‘costly, adversarial lawsuit’
City Councilor Mark Oram, speaking at the meeting, referred to a letter City Council had
received from the property owner’s attorney.
“I would ask in Finance if we could listen to them, give them a couple minutes to say their piece; I think that would be appropriate,” Oram said.
Finance Committee Chair John Irish said that he would consider doing so in the interest of
transparency, but emphasized that the Finance Committee meeting is not a public hearing. Oram then asked that the letter of the attorney representing property owner Erula, LLC, be read into the public record.
Marlborough City Clerk Steve Kerrigan then read a letter from attorney James D. Masterman, who wrote that the city was beginning the process to purchase the property through eminent domain.
“It is difficult, however, to trust the city’s fairness and integrity of the city’s appraisal process upon learning today that even before the appraiser has had a chance to see the property, the City Council is voting tonight to authorize paying Erula $5,092,666.66,” wrote Masterman. “The property will not be sold to the city for $5 million.”
Masterman wrote that the City of Marlborough is required to pay the full market value for the property, which he said far exceeds $5 million.
He added that the city is required to pay full relocation costs but said there had been no
communication from the city about this.
“While Erula has no interest in selling the property, the owner and its advisors are sophisticated business people with deep real estate experience,” wrote Masterman. “They would have been prepared to engage in negotiations with the city in good faith. Regrettably, with this calculated action, the city appears to have decided to put an end to that option and will proceed with the taking and costly, adversarial lawsuit to follow.”
Fire station proposal sparks debate
The fire station discussion has drawn some pushback, particularly from neighbors living near the proposed site at Elm and Bigelow Streets.
Speaking at multiple listening sessions, some of those neighbors have raised concerns about everything from noise and light disturbances to traffic safety.
“We have really tight-knit, good neighbors and it’s not going to be as safe for us traffic-wise,” Jeanne Douglass said on July 20. “…It’s just going to change the whole character of our whole community.”
City Councilor Robert Tunnera, who represents residents at Elm and Bigelow Street, has
supported residents in their opposition to the project.
“I will do my best to delay [a vote] for my constituents,” he said during a meeting on May 10. “We just don’t want it there.”
“We want to be a good neighbor,” Fire Chief Kevin Breen said back in April. “People have the mindset that there are constant airhorns and sirens and that’s just not the case.”