Published in the August 13, 2015 edition

BOSTON – Governor Charlie Baker has signed into law a home rule petition authorizing the state Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) to transfer control of the former J.T. Berry property to the town of North Reading.

At the request of House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading), Governor Baker signed an emergency declaration to make the bill effective immediately.  The bill is now Chapter 64 of the Acts of 2015.

“Because a delay in the effective date of this Act would frustrate the Act’s intent to ensure the prompt disposition of the property at issue, I further declare that, in my opinion, it is in the public interest that this Act take effect immediately,” Governor Baker wrote in his emergency declaration filing letter to Secretary of State William Galvin.

Representative Jones and Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) filed the home rule petition on North Reading’s behalf in January.  The bill authorizes DCAMM to convey to the town approximately 36.7 acres of state-owned land on Lowell Road that was once part of the John T. Berry Rehabilitation Center, a Department of Mental Health (DMH) facility that closed in 1995.

The bill allows North Reading to acquire the land in exchange for compensating the state for a portion of the “sunk costs” associated with the property, including work that was done to improve and maintain the site following the rehabilitation center’s closing.  The town will also share a percentage of the net proceeds with the state once the sale or lease of the property is completed.

Governor Baker’s emergency declaration allows the town to move forward without delay with its plans to purchase the land and to promote future development at the site that will generate additional tax revenues for the town.