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Wilbraham looks to finalize acquisition of Gazebo Park

Date: 8/8/2011

Aug. 8, 2011

By Chris Maza

Reminder Assistant Editor

WILBRAHAM — Two real estate transactions involving the town appear to be progressing.

The acquisition of Gazebo Park is the more imminent of the two deals as Town Administrator Robert Weitz and John Pearsall, director of Planning and Development, both confirmed that the deal for the property should be done by early September.

“The town is in the process of performing its due diligence with respect to purchasing the property as required by state law,” Pearsall told Reminder Publications.

Voters approved the used of Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds for the purchase of the property at the May 16 Annual Town Meeting after the United Congregational Church came to the Board of Selectmen in February.

Pearsall explained before the May 16 vote that the church offered to sell the property, which it had used as overflow parking as well as open space, to the town, preferring that option to selling it to private interests.

“Originally, the church had surplus property and told us they would prefer that the town use it,” Pearsall said. “If the town didn't want it, they would have put it on the market as what could have been two residential lots, based on the zoning there. The town agreed it would prefer to have the park remain open green space in the center of town as opposed to having two new residential buildings.”

Wilbraham Town Counsel Michael Haslett confirmed to the Board of Selectmen before the May 16 vote that buying Gazebo Park would be an acceptable use of CPA monies.

The town is also moving forward with the sale of Grange Hall with the Board of Selectmen recently voting to begin the bid process. However, it came with a stipulation.

Whomever buys the property must keep intact the building’s exterior, which is “more detailed architecturally than any other Victorian in town,” including three different styles of siding, Building Inspector Lance Trevallion recently pointed out.

The town also approved the proposal to sell the historic building at the Annual Town Meeting, but actually selling the property could be a challenge.

A great deal of work would have to be done to the building, which is zoned as residential property, which restricts its use. However, a buyer could apply for a special permit to allow a business to be run from the site, so long as the business owner lives on the property.

It also lacks working restroom facilities and with entryways roughly four feet above ground level, it is “not even remotely close” to meeting regulations set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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