TIVERTON — Closing documents for the sale of the town ‘s six-acre Nonquit School property, pending since December 10, will remain unsigned for a while longer as a result of recent Town Council action.
On Feb. 11 the council granted an extension — to 4:30 p.m. on March 14 — to Cynthia Hanssen, the would-be buyer, to continue due diligence inquiries regarding her purchase of the landmark site.
The council’s action, the latest in a series over the last three months, set March 28 as the new date for closing documents to be signed.
In taking its action, the council made it clear that if any other prospective buyers are interested in purchasing the property, they would need to submit an offer to the town by March 28.
At least one other prospective purchaser, whose identity has not been released, is believed to have submitted an offer, one that that was noted on the executive session agenda for consideration at the Feb. 11 meeting.
Other prospective buyers, Michelle and Brian Peay, have twice appeared before the council signaling their interest in the property. The Peays (who had offered $75,001), along with Ms. Hanssen (whose offer of $101,000 was the highest), were among the five original bidders for the property whose bids were considered by the council in executive session at its Dec. 10 meeting.
The Peays have said they want to preserve the property, while Ms. Hanssen has said she wants to use it for a single family residence.
At its executive session on Dec. 10, the council had approved the sale to Ms. Hanssen, and at its meeting on Jan. 14 had approved a purchase and sale agreement for the property that was dated that same day.
At the Jan. 14 meeting, at Ms. Hanssen’s request, the council had given her 30 days (state law provides for 10 days) to do due diligence, and had set Feb. 14 as the cut off date for her due diligence to be completed.
But late in the afternoon of Monday, Feb. 11, Ms. Hanssen, through her broker Carol Guimond, owner of Coldwell Banker Guimond Realty, submitted a last-minute e-mail request to the council asking for an extension.
“There are many issues to deal with as you know,” Ms. Guimond, owner/broker of Coldwell Banker Guimond Realty, had said in the e-mail forwarding the request for an extension to Town Administrator James Goncalo. Ms. Guimond is the agent Ms. Hanssen, the buyer.
In her e-mail, which was distributed to the council and discussed in open session, Ms. Guimond said those issues were “stated in the sales agreement” by Town Solicitor Andy Teitz.
Ms. Guimond incorporated in her e-mail a “Memo for Mr. Goncalo” from Ms. Hanssen, which said “[t]he additional time request for due diligence is needed to perform further research on archaeological issues, title insurance exceptions, septic system inspections, and other CRMC [Coastal Resource Management Council] permitting. Due to the myriad of issues, I believe my request is justifiable and I will make every effort to continue and close as stated in the request for the extension.”
The Jan. 14 purchase and sales agreement prepared by Town Solicitor Teitz says that the property will be conveyed by a quitclaim deed (not a warranty deed), and identifies a number of issues, referred to by Ms. Guimond in her e-mail as among those requiring due diligence, including: wetlands, radon gas, lead contamination, governmentally imposed or other restrictions, the discovery in 1958 of shells and skeletons possibly indicating the presence of an Indian burial ground, and coastal zone regulations imposed by the Rhode Island Coastal Management Resources Council.
At the Feb. 11 council meeting the council held a rare open session on the matter of the sale of town property (normally held in executive session). Speaking against the extension requested by Ms. Hanssen, Councilor Pelletier said other bidders could face the same set of considerations, about which they too might wish to conduct due diligence.
“The sentiment I’m trying to wrestle with,” he said, “is that when we entered into negotiations we had a period of time in mind,” and he mentioned the normal 10 day time period allowed by state law and the original 30 day time period given to her.
“I’m having a hard time rationalizing why I would allow an additional 30 days,” he said.
Councilor Lambert, however, said “if she needs an extra 30 days, it might just be worth it.”
When it came time to vote, the council agreed 4-3 to her request, and gave her until March 14 to conclude her due diligence inquiries, and set the new closing date of March 28.
Voting in favor of the extension were councilors Joe Arruda, Jay Lambert, Ed Roderick,and Joan Chabot. Against it were Councilors Bill Gerlach, Denise DeMedeiros, and Brett Pelletier.
It was not clear what would happen, or what the town could or would do, if Ms. Hanssen decided not to proceed with the purchase. “The default is that she’s bound to continue with the transaction, ” was all that Mr. Teitz would say.