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North Adams Council Asked to Clear City Yard Deed by Eminent Doman

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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council next week will be asked to take a piece of property the city has been using for decades by eminent domain.
 
The taking is related to the purchase of the old City Yard by Cumberland Farms, which has also been granted an extension on its purchase-and-sales agreement to continue environmental testing. 
 
In a communication to the City Council, Mayor Thomas Bernard said the company had exercised its option in January for a 60-day extension of the feasibility study period to allow it to test for contaminants and site suitability. The extension ended on March 10. 
 
"Earlier this month Cumberland Farms, acting through their legal counsel and the city solicitor, requested — and I granted — a further extension of the feasibility study period until April 9, 2018, in order for Cumberland Farms to complete the environmental investigation," the mayor wrote. 
 
Cumberland Farms in October offered $575,000 for the Ashland Street property, one of six properties the city put up for sale last year. The offer was $100,000 more than the appraisal. The Department of Public Works moved out the older complex by last year and into the former anodizing plant the city purchased at Hodges Cross Road.
 
The more than century-old City Yard complex is two sites — 227 and 245 Ashland — and includes four buildings of varying condition. The location, however, is in a developing area of the city that's seen growth over the past few years, including renovations of residential and commercial buildings, new sidewalks, and the construction of a new $3 million facilities building for Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. The site is zoned for industrial.
 
Cumberland Farms has for years tried to find a site suitable for a new gas station and convenience store downtown in line with the larger facilities being built across the chain, including at Hodges Cross Road and on the Mohawk Trail. 
 
The purchase-and-sales agreement states the city will share 50 percent of any cleanup costs up to $287,500, or half the purchase price. Cumberland Farms will have the option on whether to proceed with the transaction based on the findings of the environmental report. The costs incurred for the testing are entirely on Cumberland Farms.
 
Of the two lots (4 and 5) in the purchase, Lot 4's title was found to be unclear by both the city solicitor and Cumberland Farms. 
 
"Neither the Cumberland Farms title examiner nor the city nor the city solicitor could locate a source deed for the Map 171, Lot 4 parcel," the mayor wrote the council. "The solicitor noted that the city 'has openly, exclusively, and continuously occupied and used Lot 4 as its Public Works facility for a period of more than fifty years.'"
 
The solicitor is recommending that the city take both Lots 4 and 5 by eminent domain, as allowed by law. The mayor wrote that the solicitor notes that "the City Council shall not award damages inasmuch as this property taking is to confirm and clear the City of North Adams' title to the property, and there are no known parties of interest other than the City of North Adams."
 
Solicitor John DeRosa will attend the meeting to answer any questions. 
 
Also at next week's City Council meeting, the council will be presented the draft budget for fiscal 2019 that will be referred to the Finance Committee for review; will vote on ordinances related to fines, sales taxes and public consumption of marijuana; will decide the submission of a statement of interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority for Greylock School; and refer a communique from Councilor Eric Buddington about a plastic bag and styrofoam ban. 

Tags: city yard,   cumberland farms,   eminent domain,   municipal property,   

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