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Selectmen Discuss Surplus Land Sale Procedures

A request to sell 0.133 acres of town-owned land on Birch St. at the Board of Selectmen's September 9 meeting turned into a much longer discussion on what procedures and methods the town should use when selling off property it has acquired through tax title foreclosures.

Town Treasurer Christopher Pilla told the board that an abutter wanted to buy the Birch St. site, which he described as unbuildable due to its size. He asked selectmen to declare it as "surplus" land and offer it for sale at a competitive public auction.

The town took the property for non-payment of $10,879

in property taxes in 2004, Pilla said. The map accompanying his request showed the vacant land abuts an existing house at 10 Birch St. He suggested a price of $15,000 be sought for the vacant lot.

Chairman William Buckley asked why Pilla advocated a public action, as opposed to a direct sale to an abutter. Town Counsel Charles Boddy said the amount of taxes owed did qualify for the property to be sold by the direct sale method. Selectman William Kingkade then questioned why a direct sale to the abutter wasn't being done.

Boddy explained the town has four legal methods of selling surplus property: by direct sale to an abutter, by auction, by invitation to bid – with the sale going to the

highest bidder – or by a request for proposals – with the proposal judged first and then the price offered. Selectman Michael Walsh questioned why the

land was not appraised first, noting the big difference between the assessed value of $118,600 and the roughly $11,000 owed in back taxes. His board has the obligation to get the highest amount of income that

it can, Walsh added. Boddy and Pilla said they would get real estate brokers to estimate what the property

should sell for.

Buckley cautioned the board needs to know more about

who could benefit from the sale, saying he wanted to make sure the sale would not involve any conflicts of interest.

The town, he continued, needs a policy or guideline to sell surplus property and get a fair and reasonable amount for it. Typically, Boddy said, towns favor abutting property owners.

The matter was continued to a future board meeting.

Another Tax Title Foreclosure Sale

In a related matter, selectmen gave Pilla and Boddy the authorization to work with an elderly Westchester Dr. property owner – whose property the town acquired through tax title foreclosure – to help that owner sell the property. The sale would be approved by the board and enable the town to receive all back taxes with the person in question getting any remaining equity, they said.

The property in question would probably sell for at least $220,000, with the town owed $23,000 plus fees, Pilla said.

"This isn't something the board deals with a lot," Buckley said. All three selectmen said they had no desire to put people out of their homes.


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