EASTHAM — The select board has agreed to a purchase price of $2.8 million for the Town Center Plaza at 4550 Route 6, and will ask town meeting voters on June 12 for $3,080,000 to buy the property, which includes an additional $280,000, or 10 percent of the purchase price, for upgrades, first-year repairs, and maintenance and planning costs.
The 3.536-acre parcel includes a 10,381-square-foot five-unit strip mall, currently occupied by Town Center Liquors, Nauset Ice Cream, and the Royal Thai and Local Break restaurants, a 1,511-square-foot building currently occupied by the ARTichoke Boutique, and a 672-square-foot office building occupied by Foran Real Estate.
The existing tenants would be offered two-year leases initially, and the town would work with them in developing future plans.
“We cannot not try to purchase this piece of land,” said Town Administrator Jacqui Beebe at a June 3 pre-town meeting. “We will regret it forever if we don’t.”
Select board member Jared Collins said that, of the “hundreds and hundreds” of comments he had read on social media, the most frequent one was that the town didn’t need to buy the property because zoning laws would “protect us if something goes in that we don’t want.”
“That is simply untrue, because there are ways of shouldering around it,” said Collins.
While Beebe noted that short-term rental tax revenues would be used to pay debt service on the purchase, she stressed it was the already existing 4-percent tax that would fund the purchase and it was not tied to the 2-percent increase in the tax being sought in Article 8.
Orleans and Provincetown currently have a 6-percent short-term rental tax, and both Wellfleet and Truro are asking for a similar increase at their town meetings, noted Beebe.
The 2-percent increase, expected to generate approximately $300,000 annually, would be used for programs focused on assisting local residents with housing and other needs.
Assisting home owners is the goal of Article 9, which asks voters to authorize the town to make permanent utility improvements to private ways and assess betterments to home owners who discover they own private utility lines, which, as residents of Thoreau Drive found out in 2018, Eversource will not repair.
“It was really shocking to them to learn that their entire underground utility was owned by them and not by Eversource,” said Beebe.
Since then, Beebe said Tuesday, she has learned there are about 150 customers in Eastham on 65 different roads, including approximately 20 on Thoreau Drive, with similar issues. Beebe said she would obtain the addresses from Eversource and post them on the town’s website.
“Sometimes the developer didn’t turn [the utilities] over to Eversource, sometimes the first person who owned the house added the utility and it didn’t pass down when the deed passed,” Beebe explained at the June 3 meeting.
While Article 9 would give the town the authority to make utility improvements and assess betterments for the cost of those improvements, Article 4’s free cash appropriations include $100,000 for a private road repair fund that would be used for those improvements, initially for work on Thoreau Drive, so that utilities can be turned over to Eversource. The funds would be repaid with interest through a betterment on the property’s tax bills.
Also included in Article 4 is a $50,000 request to develop a master plan for the T-Time property.
“The survey and the business study have been completed for T-Time, and we are now ready to move forward with that project in terms of hiring a master planner,” said Beebe.
If the 4550 Route 6 purchase is approved by town meeting, it would be consolidated with the T-Time plan. “We would work on the two together,” said Beebe. A grant for the master plan has been applied for, but a decision is not expected until after town meeting.
Town meeting will be held on the Nauset High School football field, Saturday, June 12 at 10 a.m., with a rain date of Sunday, June 13 at 1 p.m.
“Unless the rain on Saturday would put us in a lightning situation, there’s almost no chance that we would not have it,” said Town Moderator Scott Kerry. “Unless I feel that there’s a real danger for people’s health, I think there’s a 100-percent chance we will have it rain or shine.”