City Eyes Historic Home Buy to Boost Sholan Farms in Leominster
LEOMINSTER -- City officials are looking into purchasing a historic farm house and four acres of land, with a current estimated value as high as $690,000, that would be incorporated into the city-owned Sholan Farms.
The idea of buying the property at 1183 Pleasant St. was pitched to the City Council by Mayor Dean Mazzarella Monday evening and received a positive response from councilors.
“I think it’s safe to say the feedback I’ve had is to continue to pursue negotiations,” Mazzarella said at the close of the meeting.
Though nearly every councilor commented on how much they liked the idea of adding the property to farmland already owned by the city, several pointed out they would want to see what the Friends of Sholan Farms would do with it before officially signing off.
When reached for comment Tuesday morning, Sholan Farms President Joanne DiNardo said the house, which was built in 1783, would be preserved and used as a space for the farm’s offices, meetings, and visitor center.
“We don’t have a place for any of that right now,” she said. “It’s a true showplace. They’ve kept it in tip-top shape.”
According to Chief City Assessor Bill Mitchell, the property is estimated to be worth anywhere from $425,000 to $690,000 based on market analyses conducted by his office and the property’s owner.
At-large City Councilor Claire Freda suggested the city have the property appraised, but also warned that she would not want to see purchasing the land interfering with the city’s plan to buy several parcels on Central Street for the site of a new police station.
“I wouldn’t want to take away anything from the police station though, and that’s crucial,” she said.
The council has already voted in favor of spending $2 million to cover the land purchases and demolition costs associated in preparing the site for the new police station.
At-large Councilor John Dombrowski said he agreed with Freda on both points while At-large Councilor Sue Chalifioux Zephir said she would need to know more about how the city planned to pay for the land.
“In order for me to be in complete support of it, I’d need to know the complete financing plan,” she said.
Mazzarella said he would have an appraisal of the property, more information on Sholan Farm’s plans for the land, and a list of possible funding sources by the council’s next meeting on the issue.
Though the council did not hold any vote on the issue, many councilors shared their enthusiasm for the purchase.
“When I first saw this proposal, I just fell in love with it,” said City Council President Rick Marchand, who went on to describe the conditions of the trailer the farm currently uses for office space.
“It’s basically condemnable,” he said. “It takes care of the need right now, but to think of going to work in there everyday when that’s your office is tough.”
Stephen Bernard, the current owner of 1183 Pleasant St., said he would rather have the city purchase the property because he fears that other buyers might try to build more houses on his land.
“It’s 12 rooms and just the two of us living there now,” he said. “I’d rather sell it to the city than have someone else buy it.”
Follow Peter Jasinski on Twitter @PeterJasinski53