Buyer backs out of deal to buy Whitney St. properties

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By Laura Hayes, Senior Community Reporter

Buyer backs out of deal to buy Whitney St. properties
Two properties at 429 Whitney Street and 432 Whitney Street in Northborough are up for sale. (Photo/Jesse Kucewicz)

NORTHBOROUGH – The sale of a pair of properties on Whitney Street in Northborough has fallen through, according to town staff.

“We received a written withdrawal for the purchase and sale,” said Conservation Agent Mia McDonald during an Oct. 25 meeting of the Open Space Committee. “The purchase and sale for 429 and 432 Whitney St. has fallen through, has been taken off the Board of Selectmen agenda.” 

She said she did not know why the buyer backed out.

New process underway

The properties, located at 429 and 432 Whitney St., are owned by Santo Anza, who was convicted in 2013 on charges that he was operating an illegal solid waste dump at 429 Whitney St. 

Both sites are located within the Chapter 61 agricultural program, which offers landowners tax exemptions on properties that meet certain benchmarks. 

Northborough has to be notified before a property owner withdraws from the program, though. That has given the town a seat at the table as this sale process has gone forward. 

During past municipal meetings, McDonald has said that Lincoln Properties signed the purchase and sale agreement for the site and was proposing to construct warehouses.

On Oct. 25, after Lincoln backed out of its agreement, McDonald told the Open Space Committee that staff received a request for a progress meeting for a new purchase and sale of the property.

“We’re not sure if a new purchase and sale has been signed, but that prospective buyer has already requested a meeting with staff,” McDonald said.

If this purchase and sale moves forward, the buyer would have to undergo the same process that Lincoln did, McDonald said.

Property’s history looms over proceedings

Under the terms of the Chapter 61 program, the Board of Selectmen received recommendations from town boards and commission on whether the town should exercise its right of first refusal to purchase the land in question. 

Earlier this summer, the Open Space Committee received an appraisal of 432 Whitney St. for $1.6 million. Across the street, 429 Whitney St. was appraised at $1.5 million. 

The Conservation Commission and Planning Board ultimately recommended that Northborough should not purchase the properties. 

Specifically, none of the board or commission members expressed interest in 429 Whitney St., with many citing the property’s history.

Indeed, after his initial illegal dump conviction, Anza was then ordered to pay Northborough $20,000 in January of last year for allegedly failing to comply with an order banning additional dumping on the site. 

In agreement on 429 Whitney St., some board and commission members were interested in purchasing the land on 432 Whitney St. 

Town staff had previously said there hadn’t been much use on the property. 

“It’s a large, virgin parcel left in town,” Planning Board member Anthony Ziton said during an August meeting. “Instead of having another distribution center, if you look at different uses, whether it’s fields or whatever, I think it would be worth looking at.”

However, others expressed concern about the town paying Anza. 

“Considering the grief we have received from the owner, I don’t think the town should pay him anything,” said Conservation Commission member Thomas Beals at a separate meeting in August.

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