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Town Administrator: Sale of North School to Stoneham Developer May Be Delayed

The town may have to delay the closing on the North Elementary School sale to a local developer after learning that Winchester had rejected a zoning waiver, according to Town Administrator David Ragucci.

The town may have to delay the sale of the North Elementary School to a local developer after learning that Winchester had rejected a zoning waiver, according to Town Administrator David Ragucci.

"The closing of the North School may be delayed depending on the Winchester vote," Ragucci told the Stoneham Board of Selectmen Tuesday night during their meeting at . 

At the May 7 in Stoneham, Article 1 was approved by voters. The article dealt with the transfer of land from the Stoneham School Committee to the Stoneham Board of Selectmen, which also included granting the Selectmen permission to sell the land to Collins Development Inc.

Collins Development plans to renovate the existing historic North School and adaptively reuse it to make 12 one-and-two-bedroom condominium units. The developer also plans to purchase two other lots along Collincote Street at $152,500 each for single-family residential development.

Also on May 7 during the , voters approved a zoning change to allow residential development at the former North School site.

"When you do a zoning change in any town, you've got to notify the other communities of the change and just give them notice we're zoning it, no big deal," Ragucci said after the Selectmen's session. "We had missed a date for notifying the communities so we had to send it out kind of after the fact. To send it out after the fact, the law requires these communities to grant a waiver and if they don't we have to start all over again.

"All the other communities agreed to give the town of Stoneham a waiver except Winchester. Winchester rejected it." 

Ragucci said no reason was given by Winchester for the rejection, which he received on Monday. If Winchester doesn't reverse their decision to grant the waiver, Ragucci explained how that could present a problem for Stoneham.

"If the zoning had to restart again, it will be some time before we can sell the property," Ragucci explained. "The developer wishes to start construction of the three house lots out front, which doesn't require a rezoning just the lot in the back does." A rezoning in front isn't required because it is already zoned as residential, noted the town administrator.

"I wanted to make sure the board felt comfortable that if we sell that property out front that we get a larger deposit from the developer and then we can do the rezoning and sit through the winter with the building. That's the problem," Ragucci said, adding that the town is looking to receive a 20 percent deposit from the developer instead of 10 percent. "We'll be extending the closing date regardless of what happens in Winchester."

Ragucci didn't have the closing date immediately available.

Russ August 16, 2012 at 12:53 PM
The reality is that the paperwork was not done on time by the Planning Board. We are responsible for this situation. It would be helpful to take action now that we are aware of this potential issue to ensure that we comply with the law for any future transactions. We also may want to heighten the awareness legal obligations generally in Stoneham. Our legal system is a "big deal." It is noted above that Mr. Collins will be developing three homes on the front lot but we are only transfering two lots to him. Where did this third lot originate?
Mary Lou Bracciotti August 16, 2012 at 02:59 PM
The Planning Board, the Town Administrator, the Town Counsel, and the Board of Selectmen must take complete responsibility for their lack of compliance with the law regarding the North School transaction. As elected/employed officials of Stoneham, we hold you accountable for conducting our business in a capable, timely manner. Your deriliction of duty results in the residents of this town suffering a costly setback. This is inexcusable behavior. Mary Lou Bracciotti
mark stevens August 17, 2012 at 01:38 AM
Was this property put up for sale to the general public?
Mark Ouellette (Editor) August 17, 2012 at 02:26 AM
Hi Mark, Yes. The town posted an RFP on its website a while back and also in print publications.

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