Map sale

Sale of former Bradford School faces potential difficulties | Daily news alerts

WEST — City officials have requested a meeting with their counterparts from the state’s Department of Environmental Management to discuss a grant agreement that poses a potential roadblock to plans to sell the former school of Bradford to a private developer.

A DEM spokesperson confirmed this week that department officials have been in contact with City Attorney William Conley Jr. and city planner Nancy Letendre about the property.

A grant of $53,291 from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund was used by the city in 1984 to cover the cost of acquiring a portion of the 7 acres associated with the school. The city provided the remaining $56,583 needed to complete the transaction.

A condition of the grant was that property acquired with federal funds remain in perpetuity for recreation. A map that accompanies the federal government grant information depicts a softball field and playground adjacent to the school building.

“The restrictions are essentially the same as for properties that receive state bond funded grants for outdoor recreation – that the property remain forever accessible to the public for outdoor recreation,” said Michael J. Healey, director of public affairs for DEM.

DEM acted as intermediary agency for the grant. The grant went through DEM from the US Department of the Interior to the city. The National Park Service, an agency of the US Department of the Interior, now serves as the administrator of the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. DEM also plays an executing role for the fund.

The city council voted 4-2 on June 22 to proceed with the sale of the property to Trendsetter Properties LLC, a Watch Hill-based development company, for $750,000. After the vote, council members said they were aware that questions about the grant would need to be answered and resolved before the sale could take place.

“The city has requested a meeting on this topic. As program administrator, DEM’s Chief Planning and Development Officer, Megan DiPrete, has spoken with the city planner as well as the city’s attorney. city, providing links to the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund manual and answering procedural questions,” Healey told The Sun.

Some of the school property, Healey said, where the original school was, before an addition built in the 1990s, is not restricted by the requirements of the Land Conservation Fund program and waters.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund outlines a process for converting recreational lands acquired through the fund.

According to the website, conversions must be authorized by the Federal Secretary of the Interior and are only approved if they are in accordance with a comprehensive statewide outdoor recreation plan and only “under the conditions as the secretary deems necessary to ensure the substitution”. other recreational properties of at least equal fair market value and reasonably equivalent utility and location. »

Healey said he was unaware the city had made a formal request to convert the property. City officials said the grant was not registered in city land records and could be difficult to enforce. Barring a conversion of public recreation ownership, Healey said, the land must remain available for public use.

“As administrator of the Land and Water Conservation Fund program, the National Park Service is the decision maker. The city received the benefit of the funding and, by federal rules, should meet the program requirements,” Healey said. said.

The potential sale of the property must also clear a regulatory hurdle administered by the state Historic Preservation and Heritage Commission. The school is considered a “contributing resource” in the Bradford Village Historic District, which is listed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places. Under state law, the state and municipalities are required to seek advice from the commission if it undertakes, funds, or authorizes any activity that “will encroach upon, damage, or destroy, physically, visually, or environmentally, any site, building , place, landmark, or area included in the state register.”

On June 1, Jefferey D. Emidy, the commission’s acting executive director, wrote to City Manager Shawn Lacey and informed him that selling the school’s property would require seeking advice from the commission. He then asked the city to consult with the commission and explain why the property was being sold and the city’s goals for the property if it was sold.

Incidentally, Emidy also stated in his letter that an attempt by the city to convert the property from recreational status would trigger a review by the commission under the National Historic Preservation Act. Emidy on Thursday said he learned of the potential sale from a townsman and through articles in The Sun.

On Thursday, Emidy said the commission has yet to hear from Lacey or anyone else on behalf of the city. “They haven’t informed us or explained what they’re doing or why,” Emidy said.

Lacey could not be reached to comment on this article. Jeffrey Pucci, director of Trendsetter Properties LLC, declined to answer questions for this article, saying he did not have detailed knowledge of the grant or of the issues raised by DEM or the Historic Preservation and Heritage Commission. ‘State. Pucci previously said his company would likely build apartments or condominiums on the property if the sale goes through.

dfaulkner@thewesterlysun.com