LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — At least some of the land the town bought more than a decade ago to service seniors could somewhat serve its intended purpose soon.
The town purchased 19 acres of land bordered by Prospect Street and North Main Street in 2007 with the intent to build a new senior center and senior housing units. Berkshire Housing Development headed efforts to craft plans for the senior housing aspect but the recession hit and the federal funds eyed for construction dried up. The property has sat for more than a decade.
Now, Laurel Ridge Senior Living Residence is looking to put at least some of it to use to help senior citizens. The independent living facility wants to buy a couple of those acres fronting North Main Street to expand.
"We're looking to purchase the adjacent property to Laurel Ridge, which is approximately two and a half acres," said Barbara Wirtes, of Laurel Ridge.
Laurel Ridge occupies a former hotel at 110 North Main St. but Wirtes said they're outgrowing the space for activities. The hope is to create a new area for various events and gatherings.
"What we want to do is have a multi-purpose area. Right now we were feel like we're being crowded," she said.
The town purchased the property for $225,000 and, in more recent years, the Board of Selectmen have been trying to unload the property. The most promising prospect came just two years ago when the town sought a solar developer and found Ameresco. The company was looking to use around 13 acres to develop a photovoltaic array. But ultimately that did not happen.
More recently, the Police Department has had its eye on the land looking to use a portion of it to build a new station. The plans for the senior housing facilities had included a conceptual police station. The Police Department, which is across the street from the property, has advocated for a new station there.
Multiple options are now being looked at for a station, which includes purchasing land at Laston Park or the former Vacation Village. The Selectmen are considering using proceeds from the sale of the North Main and Prospect Street parcels to help fund the station.
"One of the goals we had was to try to recoup the money we paid for it originally. The question is how much are they willing to invest in that," Selectman Robert Ericson said.
The land has frontage along Route 7, which is the easier access. Much of what is left, however, would be significantly landlocked. To access the property from Prospect Street, there are several streams and wetlands to be crossed, posing a significant challenge for redevelopment.
Wirtes suggested that Laurel buy a section of the parcel in order to continue to provide the town easy access to the rest of the buildable land.
But first, the Selectmen need permission to sell it. Town Manager Kelli Robbins already had a warrant article prepared for town meeting to do so and amended it to give the Selectmen the ability to divide the property for sale rather than selling it as a whole.
"We need permission from the town to sell any of it before we can go forward," Robbins said.
If town meeting approves any sale, that is when negotiations could begin. The town may not be creating what it had hoped on the land, nor is it the single big deal like the solar facility to bring income to the town, but Laurel Ridge at least poses some use of a least a portion of the property.
The Selectmen have been discussing real estate a lot recently with considerations about buying a gravel bed, land for a police station and potential senior center while weighing options to sell land the town currently owns.
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