, Salem, MA


June 10, 2013

Letter: Town shouldn't be involved in land speculation

To the editor:

Friday morning’s Salem News banner headline, “Property developer has ties to citizens group,” is a misleading suggestion that somehow the opposition to the purchase of the Pirie property by the town has been fomented by sinister outside forces. It is an insult to the people of Hamilton who are being asked to vote at a special town meeting on June 11. We should be thankful to our town leaders for provoking the level of discussion that has ensued around the purchase. The very important issues of housing diversity, open space, our town’s cost structure and tax rate and what the town should look like in 10 years are worthy of considerable discussion and this is taking place. During the course of those discussions, town leaders have taken every opportunity to try and make a case for acquisition. Responsible citizens are simultaneously exploring the alternatives, which involves the developers who have signed a purchase and sale agreement with the Piries in good faith.

The background is important. This property in the heart of our Historic District has been on the market off and on since the mid-1990s, when the Piries came to the Planning Board and gained approval for a six-lot subdivision. Serious marketing efforts began more than two years ago. Our town leaders only roused themselves about 100 days ago with the signing of the purchase and sale agreement when someone decided this could be a slam dunk on the issues listed above. Many other opportunities have gone by over the years, and there will be many more in the future, but suddenly this was the panacea. They have closed ranks in mutual support except for two selectmen.

A study committee was hastily formed with representatives of each of the boards. They identified 17 to 20 fatal flaws to the concept. Somehow, those have never been discussed by the Board of Selectmen in open session. The committee forwarded its findings to the selectmen without a recommendation.

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