By MAUREEN DOHERTY
LYNNFIELD —Voters attending Monday night’s fall Town Meeting were surprised to learn that the town did not receive a single bid on the purchase of Centre Farm.
The Requests for Proposals (RFP) were due last Friday, but no bidders submitted requests to purchase the seven-acre site in the town center with its 1810 brick-end Colonial farmhouse and barn. There was a minimum bid price of $1.4M, which was the cost to the town at closing on Oct. 3.
An overwhelming majority of voters approved the purchase at the Special Town Meeting June 30, 534-27, and authorized $1.55M for the transaction. The additional $150,000 will be used to update the heating and electrical systems and make minor repairs to the exterior. Town Administrator Bill Gustus said the town will go out to bid immediately to get that work completed before winter.
The original motion from the Special Town Meeting gives the town until April 2016 to bring a plan back to Town Meeting on the disposition of the property.
Brokers had approached the town over the summer to indicate that private buyers were still interested in the property even if the town added preservation restrictions, such as prohibiting future subdivision of the property for new house lots and exterior renovation restrictions. The town drafted those restrictions to run with the deed and created the process for oversight of renovations in conjunction with the Mass. Historical Commission standards.
“We did not receive any sealed bids so it was voted that we would indefinitely postpone the article,” Selectmen Chairman Dave Nelson told the voters.
Gustus was also surprised by the outcome. “Now that there has not been a vote to sell the property it is still with the CFAC(Capital Facilities Advisory Committee) to review possible uses,” he said.
One resident asked, “I was going to compliment the Board of Selectmen for doing a great job on Article 9. Just because we didn’t get a bids why can’t we approve you to sell it?”
Gustus said, “In order to have this motion come to the floor it would be necessary to have the selectmen vote to declare the property surplus. They did not do it that because there was no bid.” Had it been declared surplus it would have affected what could possibly be done with it and also how it is insured.
Town Counsel Tom Mullen concurred that the selectmen would have had to take such a vote “prior to tonight’s Town Meeting.”
Debbie LaConte of Perry Avenue said that she was “really confused” by the outcome. “We packed this place and were told we had two years to determine what would happen. I was really excited. I wanted to be on the committee.” She learned of the potential sale during a visit to the Civil War demonstration two weeks ago. “A woman told me that we would sell it by Town Meeting and I thought that was a negative, closed mind. I thought we would have an open mind.”
Nothing prevents the town from re-issuing a new RFP as well, Gustus said. Charles Wills suggested putting out an RFP “with no minimum and you could reserve the right to reject any and all bids. Then you have nothing to lose and you’ll know where the market is.”
Karen Duggan, 31 Parsons Ave., said, “If you did get a bid from now to June, we could have a Special Town Meeting because we’d like to hear about the terms and conditions prior to the sale.”