Published in the September 29, 2016 edition


NORTH READING – It’s done. After weeks of consideration, discussion and tweaks to the original language, the Selectmen and Community Planning Commission voted unanimously last Monday to approve and issue the formal Request for Proposals for the development of the remaining portion of the JT Berry property, about 36 acres of land at 102 and 104 Lowell Rd., Route 62.

The vote to approve the RFP as updated came after extensive feedback from other town officials and residents. After a public workshop session held previously, a consensus emerged that the RFP needed to be as flexible as possible and that possible residential uses, for instance, should not be ruled out.

Last Monday, meeting in joint session, the Selectmen and CPC members voted 9 to 0 to approve the RFP with changes previously agreed upon, getting the document out on the street and into the hands of possible developers.

Selectman Jeff Yull had suggested a week’s delay to allow the document to be finalized in a more finished form and brought back for a vote. But after discussion it was agreed there’s already been a tremendous amount of scrutiny of the document and there was no appetite for “wasting” another week.

The goal was to get the RFP “out there” with a 60 day window for responses, leading to a possible decision on the property in December.

The Berry property consists of two separate parcels. The larger site, known as Parcel A, is 34.2 acres and the other, Parcel B, is 2.4 acres.

Fran DeCoste, the town’s broker for the property, said the final draft is intended to give the town flexibility to choose what’s in the best interest of the town.

The first part of the RFP will be for Parcel A, to be followed by Parcel B at a later date in a strategy to create more value for Parcel B once the potential use for the larger site is decided.

The point of contact for developers will be the town planner’s office. Proposals will be accepted in the Town Administrator’s office until Nov. 22. A pre–proposal conference will be held on Oc.t 18 at 1 p.m. in town hall followed by a tour of the site. Proposals must be accompanied by a $10,000 deposit.

One important term of the RFP states the town is willing to consider proposals for uses that are not currently allowed by zoning. This is a direct nod to previous concerns that the RFP needs to be flexible and that residential uses should not be ruled out.

The appraised value of Parcel A is $2.78 million and the town reserves the right to designate the winner based on the overall best value to the community. The site is being sold “as-is,” which means any environmental risks are on the developer, who has 60 days to perform due diligence on the property.

The Economic Development Committee will evaluate the responses and make recommend the successful proposal to the Selectmen within 60 days of submission. And the successful applicant will be required to sign a Purchase and Sales agreement within 60 days of designation and the town is asking for a 5 percent deposit due at the time of the execution of the purchase and sales agreement.