GREAT BARRINGTON -- The Board of Selectmen on Monday approved yet another extension that will delay the sale of the town’s old firehouse on Castle Street once again.
But the board is optimistic that a contract could be signed by its next meeting on Sept. 23.
Fourteen extensions have been granted during the nearly two years of negotiations. But Selectman Stephen Bannon, who is leading the negotiations on the town’s behalf, said he’s optimistic that the parties can reach a contract that will satisfy both the buyer, 20 Castle Street LLC, and neighboring merchants who are opposed to the sale.
"The negotiations are done between the town and 20 Castle Street," Bannon said. "It’s in the hands of the lawyers."
Merchants on Railroad Street are concerned that the sale of the 114-year-old three story structure would restrict access to an alleyway that is used for delivering merchandise and disposing of trash.
Tom Borshoff, the principal backer of 20 Castle Street LLC, has proposed refurbishing the old firehouse so that it can house a vocational training program and career counseling. A cafe and museum may also be included in the plans.
It appeared an agreement regarding the sale would be signed in June. But its been delayed ever since because of concerns from neighboring merchants about contract stipulations that would have restricted hours, circumstances, and frequency of use of the alleyway.
Rob Navarino, owner of the Chef’s Shop on 31 Railroad St. -- one of the businesses that would be impacted -- said he hasn’t seen the contract for the sale of the firehouse. Selectmen said the agreement will be made available to the public after it has been reviewed by lawyers from both sides.
"I think we’ve made a solid argument that enabling one business to control the access of many businesses and properties ... is not fair, equitable or workable," Navarino said.
Bannon said he and Selectwoman Deborah Phillips last spoke to Borshoff on Saturday. He expected the agreement to be submitted and reviewed by lawyers in the next few days.
Bannon declined to comment on specifics, but he said the sale price still remains at $50,000. The town will be responsible for paying $270,000 for an environmental cleanup of the firehouse property, which includes the removal of on-site asbestos. 20 Castle Street has agreed to pay $80,000 of the cost of the environmental cleanup.
"We have an agreement that has taken into account what they had requested," Bannon said.
In July, Railroad Street merchants submitted a list of requests to Selectmen that included the continued use of the alleyway at all times, and the elimination or stipulations that limit the frequency and hours of use. They also asked that snow removal and maintenance of the property be conducted by 20 Castle Street LLC.
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