The Board of Selectmen voted to rescind a purchase and sale agreement for 5 Cherry Brook Road Wednesday night and take the highway garage and roads projects off the November ballot. Board members also floated the idea of eminent domain for a garage site.
The surprise move came after the town received two appraisals that were more than $200,000 lower than the agreement specified. The town had planned to ask voters to approve a $6.75 million garage project that included $665,000 for the purchase of the property, extensive site work and a new facility.
It had been one of the projects the town planned to ask voters to approve for bonding on the November ballot.
After discussing numerous options, selectmen agreed to rescind the agreement, and take the garage project off the ballot. Since it was bundled with $6 million of proposed road improvements, that will also not go to the voters in November, leaving just the roofs and track projects on the ballot.
The town had a purchase and sale agreement for 5 Cherry Brook with owner of KWK Canton LLC for $665,000.
The appraisals, however, came in at $450,000 and $415,000, Chief Administrative Officer Robert Skinner told selectmen Wednesday night.
The owner, however, felt it was worth more and would not renegotiate the price, Skinner said.
Selectmen then discussed numerous options, including rescinding the agreement — allowed by contract with the lower appraisals, paying the agreed amount in the interest of advancing the project or initiating an eminent domain process, initially paying an average of the two appraisals, allowing the owner to appeal the price and get another appraisal.
Permanent Municipal Building Committee chairman Peter Reynolds was at the meeting and offered several perspectives. One way to look at it was that $200,000 was perhaps a small price to pay for a move that should be permanent, he said.
The town has a responsibility to those that work there, to extend the life of its trucks, impove service efficiency, deal with environmental issues and recapture river access and field space, Reynolds said.
“The economic savings of relocating a garage should not be overlooked,” he said. “I would at least urge the committee to think in broad terms.”
In the end, many selectmen just felt voters would not support paying more for the property than the appraisals.
Steve Roberto said he had already discussed in previous meetings that there was a “black cloud” over the garage project. With the new information, it would be nearly impossible to pass as is, he said.
“I don’t think there’s any way we can find success with this,” Roberto said.
Selectmen also faced the challenge of ballots being printed Thursday, leaving little time for a decision.
Selectmen also discussed eminent domain. Some selectmen felt that if that were a route to take that perhaps it should be on a different property.
First selectman Richard Barlow said the town should be careful not to deteriorate the town’s limited land for economic development.
Selectman Tom Sevigny said the town does need a highway garage and should look at another property.
"Just do it through eminent domain and get it over with,” he said.
Skinner said there’s still few options.
“Even with eminent domain, there’s not a lot of options out there,” Skinner said.
Still selectmen also alluded to another property that had been looked at but is not currently for sale.
Skinner did say there would be time to get the projects out to a March or April 2013 voite and still be included in the town’s first bonding sale next August.
Roberto said the development was certainly a blow to the Permanent Municipal Building Committee, which since 2008 has worked on trying to relocate the garage.
“I want to thank your committee again,” he told Reynolds. “It’s a big blow to all the work you’ve done.”
“I would like to think of this as deferring the project,” Reynolds answered.