GREAT BARRINGTON -- After more than two years of negotiations, the Board of Selectmen will meet today to vote on the sale of the town’s old firehouse on Castle Street.
But the town’s agreement with buyer 20 Castle Street would restrict when and how often large trucks could use an adjacent alleyway, which has drawn the ire of some Railroad Street merchants.
The alleyway sits between the firehouse and a parking lot they say is critical to getting merchandise and food into their businesses and taking trash and other refuse out.
"I do not understand why the potential needs of this proposed business would be given legal precedence over the real needs of my long-established business," said Rob Navarino, owner of the Chef’s Shop on Railroad Street, one of several merchants who attended Monday’s Select Board meeting to oppose the plan.
The former firehouse is set to be sold for $50,000 to 20 Castle Street, Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin has confirmed. The town would be responsible for $270,000 for environmental remediation, while 20 Castle Street would pay the remainder.
Backed by principal owner Tom Borshoff, 20 Castle Street previously has expressed interest in building a vocational training school and cafe in the location. The wholesale renovation and re-design of the area is estimated to cost $4 million, Tabakin said. The Board of Selectmen will vote today at 5:30 p.m. at Town Hall.
Navarino expressed appreciation to Tabakin and the Board of Selectmen for the time they have devoted to negotiating the contract. While he said his business would work to comply with contract terms, he said guidelines restricting when large trucks could access the alley would lead to hardship.
The alleyway would be widened to include a grassy strip in the area. Navarino objected to a time window when large trucks would be permitted to enter. He also objected to a limitation of "one truck per week, year-round."
"During the months of April/May and November/December, we can receive several large truck deliveries in a week ... I have yet to hear a reason why this one truck per week limit would be necessary during months when the proposed cafe is not operating," Navarino said.
The Chef Shop could face significant "liftgate" and "inside delivery charges" for each time a truck driver makes a delivery without the use of the alleyway, he said. Navarino also objected to a special request process if additional trucks want to use the alleyway.
The alleyway is a part of the firehouse property, Selectmen said.
Two other business owners told Selectmen the town is courting the wrong business to take over the contract.
Under the town’s contract, several town departments, including the local Department of Public Health, will continue to use the building rent free for the first year after the contract is approved, according to Tabakin. In subsequent years, the town would pay $2,500 a month, or $30,000 a year, for the use of the office space.
"It’s a good transitional plan," Tabakin said.
To reach John Sakata:
email@example.com, or (413) 496-6240.
On Twitter: @jsakata