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Land purchase agreement nixed in Tilton

March 10, 2010
TILTON — The Life Safety Building Committee announced Monday that the agreement for the purchase of 3.2 acres of property at Route 132 and Birch Drive for a police station and a possible life safety complex in the future has fallen through.

According to a press release sent out by the LSBC, the land's owners, Orchard Brand and Golden Gate Investments, were "concerned with dynamically changing property values and the general uncertain economic environment" and felt it was in their best interest to place a hold on the transaction.

Town officials have since learned that a possible agreement was entered into with an unnamed "big box" store, which was reportedly interested in the property at a much higher price.

In February the Town of Tilton entered into a letter of intent agreement with the investment firms, anticipating the final binding purchase and sales agreement would be executed prior to Town Meeting. Late last week that agreement fell apart, but another opportunity arose. J.Jill, which is owned by the two investment firms, presented the possibility of selling the town a second lot beside the one initially agreed upon, at the price of $150,000. According to Pat Consentino, selectmen and a member of the Life Safety Building Committee, J.Jill reps said at that time, "We understand we put you in a bind after your investment in a design, geo-tech study and now with Town Meeting approaching."

That offer, too, was later reneged on Monday, when heads of both investment firms decided it was not wise to sell that particular piece of property at this time.

"This was way beyond our control and very much a last-minute happening," said Consentino.

The committee, formed at Town Meeting a year ago, has been investigating the needs of the police and fire departments, examining their call histories and seeking to determine the optimal location for both should the fire district choose to join in and construct a new fire station at the same location. Having a life safety complex, they said, offered grant opportunities to build the facility that a police station alone did not.

In light of these recent events, the LSBC has held emergency meetings to review the situation. They have been assured by Architect Gary Goudreau that the plans drawn up by his firm are adaptable to other sites the committee may find in the future.

"The Life Safety Committee believes the time invested in this design was time well spent and agree the design could work in several other locations with minor changes," Consentino wrote in the press release.

The warrant at this Saturday's meeting contains three articles connected to this project. One, Article 3, calls for voters to approve a bond for the purchase of the Route 132 property at a cost of $540,000.

"We're awaiting word on whether we will call to table Article 3 or amend it to a zero dollar amount at Town Meeting where we can then bring forth discussion and tell residents what happened with the deal," Consentino said Tuesday.

Article 4, not recommended at this time by either the selectmen or the committee, was for the construction of a police station on the site at an initial estimated cost of $3,771,600. Consentino said it had been placed on the warrant to allow voters a chance to see they had made progress but more work was needed to make it a feasible expenditure for the town.

With Articles 3 and 4 now being moot points, the committee is seeking the passage of Article 6, which will allow the LSB committee the opportunity to continue working toward a suitable location for a police and potential fire department. Consentino said that, despite the last minute setback, the committee could readily go forward with its charge should voters approve the continuance.

"We'd like to go forward in looking for another piece of property conducive to a life safety building, reconfigure the design and come back to Town Meeting next year with a new plan," she said.

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