DERRY — Town-owned real estate continues to make the Town Council agenda and there are many ideas on what should be done with some vacant downtown land.
Councilors began talking about town property months ago and made the discussion a priority and goal for the year ahead.
At a meeting March 18, one empty downtown parcel took center stage when it came to figuring out ways to make the land useful and profitable.
Former oil company properties on Central and Abbot Courts have been a longstanding topic when it comes to helping Broadway prosper through potential redevelopment plans.
The properties were historically used for fuel storage and distribution activities dating back to the 1990s and many have worked on ideas to make that area good for Derry.
Some want a park, some want to see retail or open space. Some say the downtown needs more parking. Others someday envision a new West Broadway fire station.
Town Councilor Tom Cardon said he would love to see a park on Broadway.
“We need a draw for the downtown,” he said. “A park is a perfect project to put down there. We could have an ice skating rink in the winter.”
But Town Councilor Al Dimmock said a park would not be a good fit as it would not generate any money for the town.
“I say we sell it and get it back on the tax rolls,” Dimmock said.
Town Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores liked both the park and the parking lot plans.
“I’m just up in the air on this whole thing,” she said.
There is also a possibility that someday West Broadway will again need a fire station.
Several years ago when the West Broadway station, now Halligan Tavern, closed, the town considered a future station on that end of town, but no plans went forward.
Acting Town Administrator Larry Budreau suggested the council may want to consider the former oil properties for a potential fire station site.
“The current Central Station building has a limited life,” he said. “When that time comes, you are going to have to purchase land, and you may already own it.”
Narrowing those ideas to a smaller list would help move the town forward with a plan, Budreau wrote in a report to the council, with the goal of somehow getting property back on the tax rolls.
Those aren’t the only properties taking up discussion. There is a short list of others that were taken by the town through tax deed efforts. They are still up for sale and under review. Some are homes, some are just undeveloped land.
The town must follow specific state guidelines when it comes to reviewing and selling town-owned property.
Derry had some catching up to do, officials said.
“The town’s procedure calls for an annual review cycle that begins no later than July 1, which did not occur,” Budreau said. “I’ve laid out an aggressive schedule to catch up with land deals.”
Instead of allowing too much time to go by without any action on property sales, Budreau suggested following a timeline that included asking town departments and boards to look at the list and give input, abutter notice, hosting two public hearings and then a Town Council vote.
The goal, he said, is to recoup any unpaid taxes and, most importantly, get the property back on the tax rolls.