NORTH READING – As a direct result of the Town Meeting vote last October authorizing the town to take the lead in developing the remaining portion of the JT Berry property, the Selectmen voted unanimously at their last meeting to go forward with special legislation to acquire the property.

October Town Meeting voted to approve an innovative partnership with the state, which still owns the remaining undeveloped land at the Berry center abutting the Edgewood Apartments property. Called a “sales partnership model,” the agreement will allow the town to take title to the property while also taking control of marketing the land with an eye toward its future development and its return to the tax rolls. In this way the town not only gets to expedite the development of the land but has a say in what eventually goes in there.

Since October, the town has been doing its due diligence in the form of an environmental analysis of the property to test for hazardous materials, Selectmen Michael Prisco explained. The analysis was completed earlier this month in anticipation of filing the necessary documents to acquire the land from the state. The analysis, conducted by the firm Weston and Sampson, detected some signs of areas that may need some asbestos cleanup, Prisco reported, but overall the property is “pretty clean.”

“It’s not 100 percent clean but I think it’s overall in great shape,” Prisco stated.

Since construction of the 400 apartment units on half of the Berry site nearly 10 years ago, the other half has sat vacant and unused after a development agreement between the state and office park developer Gutierrez and Co. eventually fell through in the economic downturn. The remaining property is about 40 acres. Under the sales partnership model, the town and state will split the proceeds when the property is sold but there are incentives in the deal that could give the town as much as 60 percent of the price, according to the presentation at Town Meeting.

Last October, Town Meeting appropriated $130,000 to cover expenses associated with the marketing but when the land is sold, the town can deduct these expenses from the sale price before sharing the proceeds with the state.

The Selectmen accepted the report from Weston and Sampson and voted to authorize Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto to go forward and submit special legislation that will have to be filed by the town’s legislators to transfer control of the property to the town.

Selectmen Chairman Robert Mauceri thanked Prisco, Community Planning Commission Administrator Danielle McKnight and Weston and Sampson for a lot of work put into the project over the last three months in order to meet the Dec. 31 deadline facing the town.

Town Meeting in October approved the sale partnership model by far more than the two-thirds majority necessary, convinced by unanimous support from the Selectmen and CPC this was a good thing. Once the town acquires the property, the town can make the decision regarding its future use, Prisco said at the time. The real value of the deal is the future revenue the land will return to the town’s tax rolls when fully developed.