Published in the August 17, 2017 edition

THE TOWN has determined that reclaiming the Tarrant Lane property from the federal government is not in the cards. (Mark Sardella Photo)

THE TOWN has determined that reclaiming the Tarrant Lane property from the federal government is not in the cards. (Mark Sardella Photo)


WAKEFIELD — Based on Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio’s recommendation, the Board of Selectmen has decided not to pursue any effort to reclaim the federally-owned land at Tarrant Lane. 

The 3.74 acre parcel sits just off Hopkins Street and on the northerly side of Route 128 near the Reading line. It was part of 57 acres in Wakefield and Reading taken by the federal government in 1954 for a sum of $15,975. According to Maio, it appears from records that the land had previously been owned by an entity known as the Wakefield Hospital Corporation.

Currently owned by the United States Military, there are 12 single-family, two-bedroom homes sitting on the property along Tarrant Lane. The property was most recently used by the Coast Guard as housing for enlisted personnel, but the homes have been uninhabited for many years. The federal government’s General Services Administration is currently conducting an online auction in an effort to sell the property.

Several local residents, including former Selectman Jim Scott, have advocated that the town should attempt to reclaim the land from the federal government at no cost or at a greatly reduced price.

According to Maio, that’s not going to happen.

“Since 2014, this office has attempted to engage our U.S. delegation to assist in the transfer of the property to Wakefield for the use of public housing with a preference for veterans,” Maio reminded the board. “To date only Representative Moulton’s office has even responded. Accordingly, a conference call was established on May 18, 2017 with the help of Representative Moulton.”

During that call, Maio told the board, he was informed that the position of the GSA was to maximize the price received for the land and to utilize the proceeds to build military housing where needed.

On July 6, 2017 Selectman Peter May and Maio attended an open house and walked the site including one of the houses. The GSA bid package was available that same week, Maio said.

“The bid package requires a deposit of $75,000 before placing an actual bid,” Maio explained. “The starting bid is $750,000.”

But Maio noted that in speaking with some developers, he learned that the bidding is expected to be much higher. He said that he had heard from a number of sources that the bids are already up to $2 million.

Maio pointed out that, from the town’s perspective,  there are a number of problems surrounding the bid process for the land. He outlined those issues in a written memorandum to the board.

• We have no appropriation available for the $75,000 without going to Town Meeting

• The payment (if the bid were accepted) would require Town Meeting approval via a two-thirds vote.

• The bid package expressly states no contingencies so items 1and 2 above are already outside the parameters of the bid spec.

• Any use of the property (with the exception of four or five “approval not required” lots on Hopkins

Street) would require zoning relief.

• In all instances an agreement would need to be reached with Reading for water service.

• If the town were to purchase the property we would then need to secure the funding to upgrade the property for rental or sale.

“Finally,” Maio said, “ I wonder where the purchase of this land for housing fits into the town’s priorities. We are focused on the economic development of our business areas, providing quality public safety, DPW, and educational services to our residents and guests. A few have mentioned this site as a potential spot for a community garden or recreational fields. In my opinion a community garden should be in a central location where people can walk to or take public transportation, a great difficulty at this location. Also, due to the topography this land is not suited for fields.

“From a planning perspective this area is best suited for high density housing with (of course) an affordability component (preference to Wakefield residents). A fall back would be first time home buyer housing in its current density with an affordability component (preference to Wakefield residents). The higher density housing may be problematic due to the Reading water issue. In both instances zoning relief and/or waivers from the Planning Board are necessary,” Maio said.

“In the final analysis, I recommend that we not bid on the property and allow the property to be put on the tax roles so we can fund other priorities,” Maio concluded. “A higher density project could produce $250,000 a year in revenue and a current density project would produce $60,000 or so.”

The board agreed with Maio’s analysis and no further action will be taken with respect to the Tarrant Lane site.