Stanley: Warren would entertain Wightman’s Farm purchase talk

Adams Lane cuts through the heart of the Wightman's Farm property. Adams Lane cuts through the heart of the Wightman's Farm property.

Adams Lane cuts through the heart of the Wightman’s Farm property.

The owners of Wightman’s Farm still intend to develop their 18-acre Metacom Avenue property, despite the Warren Town Council’s decision last week to deny a zone change on a portion of the property from residential to commercial — and despite word that town officials would be interested in discussions about the town buying the property.

Bristol realtor Brian Clark, the owner of Clark Properties Group in that town, has been marketing the property for sale for months, though not seriously. On Monday, he said he and Wightman’s principals — Robert Avila, his daughter Robin Remy and her sisters — have not yet come up with an asking price for the land, and instead continue to look to develop it under its existing zoning designation, R-10.

“The owners really wanted to have a zone change in order to work on an office development for the Wightman’s Farm,” he said. “With the zoning change denied, we will be looking at all options allowable.”

Those include affordable housing, which the farm’s attorney, Bruce Cox, estimated last week could allow them to build as many as 80 to 90 housing units there.

Whether those options work out, or the owners decide to sell instead, has yet to be determined. As for the asking price?

“The purchase price will be addressed once we decide which direction to go,” Mr. Clark said.

His comments come a few days after Warren Town Council president Chris Stanley told the Warren Times-Gazette that he would be interested in talking with the owners about the town acquiring the property with open space funds.

“I am surprised that they did not approach the town in the first place,” he said, noting that there are many open space parcels around town that he and others would like to see preserved. “That is something that I would support.”

If the town intends to use its money to purchase the property,  though, it will likely need some help.

The property is broken into three lots and in total is assessed by the town at $980,400. Wightman’s Farm owners sought only to re-zone two of the western-most properties (520 and 536 Metacom Ave.), which total 6.25 acres and are  assessed at $620,500. In addition, the third lot, an 11.92-acre parcel at 5 Libby Lane, is assessed at $359,000. There were never plans to re-zone that section of the farm.

Meanwhile, the Town of Warren has $322,500 in its “Open Space Acquisition” account, according to Warren Town Manager Thomas Gordon. The money was approved by voters two years ago, and the account would have been substantially larger but for last year’s Adjourned Town Meeting, held on May 31, 2011, when voters rejected by 88 to 49 the placing of an additional $500,000 in the account. Voters were not asked to approve any open space funds this year.

Given that voters turned down additional open space funds, Mr. Stanley said, “we would have to look to outside agencies, preservation groups and philanthropic groups to increase our purchasing power.”

Still, he said it’s worth looking into, despite the fact that the owners have a right to do what they want with the land as long as it conforms to zoning.

“Property owners who are looking to sell development rights are encourage to contact the town,” he noted.

 

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3 Comments

  1. John Tats said:

    Once again little Warren can’t get itself in order…when the property went up for sale approx 7 to 8 years ago why didn’t the Town attempt to purchase it then, when it actually had open space money.There was ample opportunity for anyone to purchase it, Instead a long time developer bought it and everyone acted surprised when he and his family attempted to develop it. Warren has a terrible track record with denying land owner development rights, If fact it hasn’t won any court cases related to that to this day. Now Warren goes into damage control and is considering buying land and doesn’t have the money for it. “Bad Idea” It’s going to be 2013 and there are still streets in this Town that don’t have utilities, and some don’t even have decent pavement, plus an aging water infrastructure, the police Dept needs to beg for cars every couple of years, our Rescue squad runs on it’s shirt tails, the Highway Dept doesn’t have enough men to accomplish daily tasks, and our schools are constantly in financial turmoil, vacant empty Town buildings that we can’t sell…..But we are gonna consider looking for money to buy these people out. Very “Bad Decision”. Next time folks pay attention and stop racing to go spend our tax money to appease people that want a view! I Can’t wait to listen to everyone cry when the taxes go up again! This Town needs to learn to do whats best for the “Entire Town” not just a select few. Oh yeah, one more thing, lets not act surprised when the Kaiser property is purchased soon and those developers look to build, because that’s coming soon also! But no one is paying attention again……

  2. Chris Stanley said:

    Certainly, the town of Warren acts proactively to mitigate taxes by pursuing open space. It is a matter of public record that the Town of Warren approached the previous owners in an attempt to purchase the development rights for this specific parcel of land.

    • John Tats said:

      Chris, While I understand the bigger picture, the fact is this matter isn’t in my eye’s a priority. Mr Avila bought this property many years ago, if anyone in Town thought he wasn’t going to try and do something w/it…they had their heads in the clouds. Now the issue is what is more important, trying to find money for this or things of importance? Sewer, Water, Streets, Police, Highway issues…etc.

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