Finance panel signs off on sale of McLaury House despite plea for new option
Published 8:13 am, Friday, September 4, 2015
A last-minute pitch by a former Representative Town Meeting member not to sell town-owned house at 99 Myrtle Ave. failed Wednesday night when the Board of Finance approved its sale to the highest bidder.
The town, according to Selectman Helen Garten, already has a binder on the property, also called the Emily McLaury House, for 5 percent over the $589,000 list price.
She declined to give the prospective buyer’s name, but said there were six bids for the property, five above the list price, with the highest bidder signing the binder.
“The sales price is in flux,” she added, because negotiators are still figuring out if the town will make needed repairs or give the buyer a credit.
She said the prospective buyer plans to live in the house, built in 1921, and preserve it, realizing the responsibility of owning an historic piece of property. The sale has been approved by the Historic District Commission, Garten noted.
But Richard Lowenstein, a former RTM member, asked the finance board to consider leasing the property for $1 a year to Homes With Hope, an agency whose clients “are in desperate need of housing.”
Homes with Hope, according to its website, “is a local grassroots response to the tragedy of homelessness.”
Lowenstein said that while the town hasn’t been, in general, a good landlord for its properties, “being a landlord and being a property owner are two different things.”
“I am loathe to see the town sell property simply because it can’t manage it,” Lowenstein said.
Lowenstein said Homes with Hope is supportive of his suggestion, adding: “This came from me, not from Jeff,” referring to Jeff Wieser, the agency’s director.
Garten said that she has identified other properties, including those at Baron’s South, that could be used by agencies like Homes With Hope. “I was in contact with Mr. Wieser and others,” she said.
She noted that the McLaury House is a small house with two bedrooms and not the kind that would be good for a group home.
“It”s best served putting it in private hands,” she said.
First Selectman Jim Marpe said it was interesting that Lowenstein’s suggestion was coming “at a late moment” after town officials have been “working on this for months.”
Marpe, who served on the Homes with Hope board of directors, said he doesn’t think “this is the house that will work” for the agency.
Finance board member Michael Rea told Lowenstein “it’s never too late” for the right idea.
But, Rea added, while he’s not for selling town property “this one is really unique and I don’t see strategically why we should hold on to it.”
The proposal will now go to the Zoning Board of Appeals to redraw the lot line. There has already been a house inspection and a positive 8-24 report on the sale from the Planning and Zoning Commission.
The town purchased the house, located on less than an acre of land, in 1972 and renovated it in 2007.