Shrewsbury begins tax title foreclosure of Empire Dry Cleaning site


Shrewsbury begins tax title foreclosure of Empire Dry Cleaning site
The former Empire Dry Cleaning stands on Maple Avenue. (Photo/Maureen Sullivan)

SHREWSBURY – Shrewsbury is moving forward with foreclosure of the former Empire Dry Cleaning property at 15 Maple Ave.

During its Jan. 24 meeting, the Select Board recommended that the treasurer collector begin the tax title foreclosure process for the property.

“Obviously, [it’s] well known that the property at 15 Maple Avenue has been a challenge,” said Town Manager Kevin Mizikar.

He said the property owed nearly $300,000 in past-due taxes.

“Time to move forward, right? We’ve had the conversation time and time again,” Mizikar said.

According to Shrewsbury’s GIS records, the property is 0.24 acres and owned by the David Richards Childrens Trust, which has a post office box address in Montana. Its assessed value is $94,100.

The town acquiring this property and constructing Maple Street Public Parking was one of the projects identified in Shrewsbury’s Rapid Recovery Plan dated 2021.

According to a memorandum from licensed site professionals Craig Ellis and Marylou Armstrong to Gorman + York Advisory Services’ Cynthia Stewart, as of the plan, the property had been vacant for three to four years.

The site has operated as a dry cleaner since when it was built in the 1960s. According to the memo, there was a fuel oil release in the northeast portion of property. About 300 cubic yards of impacted soil was excavated and it achieved regulatory closure.

“A release of chlorinated volatile organic compounds (CVOCs) has impacted the property and downgradient residential and commercial properties,” it read.

The source of this release was determined to have been chlorinated solvents that were used in operating the business that were discharged to the septic tank. About eight cubic yards of soil were excavated as deep as nine feet below grade by the septic tank, according to the memo.

According to Mizikar, under the general law, it was the responsibility of and only the authority of the treasurer collector to begin the process of a tax title foreclosure. He said the treasurer collector will have control on the disposition of the property, too.

“Having the board encourage, push, solidify us moving in this direction would be very important,” Mizikar said. “We would take action as soon as possible to make this happen.”

Mizikar noted this process wouldn’t occur promptly. He estimated that the process could take between one to two years, adding that there was a backlog of cases in Land Court and the owner of the property had rights for a period of time after it was foreclosed upon.

During that time, Mizikar said staff would work to make a recommendation for the disposition or action on the property.