By MAUREEN DOHERTY
LYNNFIELD — No draft proposals were received by the town on potential uses for the historic Centre Farm property at 567 Main St. by the March 16 deadline as the Villager was going press.
The Capital Facilities Advisory Committee (CFAC) had hoped that any drafts by interested parties would be submitted by this deadline to enable CFAC members to review them prior to the public forum slated for next Monday, March 23 at 7 p.m. in the high school’s media center.
Although the deadline has passed, CFAC Chairman Ted Caswell told the Villager on Monday that he considers this “a soft process,” therefore, if someone needs more time to finish a draft proposal it would still be accepted by CFAC.
He added that the CFAC forum will be held next Monday night regardless of whether any proposals have been submitted.
“I’d like to hear anyone that has anything to say” about the property or the process that is taking place, he said.
The town purchased the Centre Farm property in October for $1.4M from the Donovan family and voters at Town Meeting were promised an opportunity to be involved in the future use or disposition of this resource.
The 7-acre site is zoned for single family residential use. It sits in the center of town near the common wedged between two ancient burying grounds and surrounded mostly by other town-owned property, including the Middle School, the DPW yard, parking areas adjacent to the Town Hall and the Historical Centre on South Common Street, which houses the town’s historical artifacts.
It contains a large 1810 era brick-end Colonial farmhouse, various additions and a barn/carriage house, complete with underground stables. These structures have been described by local historic preservationist Tom Duggan as being one of the finest examples of architecture of this period still in existence.
A special town meeting was held June 30 with voters providing overwhelming support to authorize the town to purchase it to prevent it from being sold and subdivided. Many feared subdividing it would change the colonial character of the town center and cause a negative ripple effect on property values throughout town.
Prior to October Town Meeting, the town developed a set of deed restrictions to prevent the property from being subdivided and to preserve its exterior architectural features. The property was put out to bid through a request for proposal (RFP) process. No bids were received by the deadline so the Board of Selectmen opted not to declare the property surplus and to pass over the warrant article.
The June vote to purchase the property included the caveat that a decision be made on its future use or disposition by April 2016.
CFAC wants proponents to convince them of the viability of the options they envision for Centre Farm that would provide a better outcome for the town than selling it as a single-family residential use to a private buyer with deed restrictions.
The town and CFAC would work with a proponent of a viable option in seeking any necessary zoning changes by next October, but there is no guarantee that a zoning change sought would pass at town meeting.
Proposals may be submitted via e-mail to Caswell at [email protected] or dropped off in person to the Town Administrator’s office at Town Hall, 55 Summer St., marked to the attention of Bob Curtin, assistant to administration.
If no viable use for the property is proposed the town would draft a warrant article asking voters at the upcoming April Town Meeting to allow the selectmen to dispose of the property through a sealed bid process with newly imposed deed restrictions. The goal would be to get the town the highest return possible, Caswell said.