By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — Town officials are eyeing a downtown property for purchase to pave the way for economic development.
Councilors approved spending $173,000 for a multifamily building at 8 Central St. near Sawyer Court to give a boost to future plans to make the downtown more attractive to businesses and those who live and visit there.
The property will become one of several the town owns in the area near the Sawyer and Abbot Courts, including the former DiFeo Oil site.
One former town councilor does not like what she heard about the real estate plans.
“Is this a done deal?” Janet Fairbanks asked the council at a meeting Jan. 8. “What are we going to do with this building?”
Fairbanks questioned not only the purchase price, but the intended plans for the building. Councilors said the building would be demolished.
“We are not only overpaying for the property, but we are taking the most valuable piece of the property down,” she said.
Fairbanks also expressed concern that several families would have to relocate after the sale.
Purchasing the building, officials said, is part of an overall vision to create a successful downtown to attract businesses and developers.
“This is a way to develop and get it back on the tax rolls for a better use,” Town Council Chairman Bradley Benson said.
Councilor Joel Olbricht said there were priorities in line for how to develop the property.
“These are baby steps we are taking,” he said. “The best thing to make a better downtown, still the best way, is to be able to create a future vision. It’s one of our goals to get to.”
Benson said the town owns a fairly large part of that area, but there was an access issue. That’s why the building purchase was important.
“There is a process we need to go through to make it happen,” he said. “I think this is the next step.”
People have many ideas as to how to move forward with a downtown plan including possible parking, residential areas and more business-friendly areas.
Only one councilor, Michael Fairbanks, voted not to approve the building’s purchase.