The remaking of a major chunk of southern Sandwich is hanging in the balance as a businessman, Sandwich town officials and the Cape Cod Commission try to reach a complicated development deal.
In a December 19 letter to Thomas Tsakalos of the Tsakalos Realty Trust, town manager George H. Dunham relayed town concerns about the pace and a number of details concerning the development of the South Sandwich Village Center.
The village center has been proposed for about 100 acres in the so-called “Golden Triangle,” bounded by Route 130 and Cotuit and Quaker Meetinghouse roads.
As part of the deal, Mr. Tsakalos has offered to buy about 55 acres of town land for $4.8 million. The land would be melded into a mixed-use development consisting of residential, retail and office space.
In the December 19 letter, Mr. Dunham laid out a number of concerns about the deal.
Chief among them, according to the chairman of the board of selectmen, James W. Pierce, is that the residential component of the mixed use development appears to be increasing—something that the heavily residential town does not need—and that development of the town’s acres could be five or more years away.
But the realty trust has its own concerns, including $11 million for traffic mitigation requested by the Cape Cod Commission, and a perceived slowness on the part of the town to move the deal forward.
For now, the deal appears safe.
In the letter, Mr. Dunham said the selectmen have stipulated that the trust submit a development grant application to the commission by March 1 for the deal to proceed.
Peter Dubay, general manager for the trust, said Wednesday that the trust plans to file the application with the commission by March 1. At present, Mr. Dubay said, the application is about 75 percent complete.
The parties also anticipate meeting in early to mid-January with commission representatives to discuss the planned development agreement application.
What remains to be seen is whether the parties in the coming months reach a meeting of minds.
On the town side, Mr. Pierce said the selectmen are concerned about a perceived shifting of the village center toward residences rather than offices and stores.
“The project has been drifting further and further toward residential,” the selectman said. “That just puts more stress on the tax base.”
Further, Mr. Pierce commented on the delayed development of the town-owned acres, saying that the trees now covering the land do not pay the kind of taxes that developed parcels do.
The selectman said the town is not being driven so much by the $4.8 million offer for the town land as by the anticipated $2 million to $3 million in annual tax revenue that the development could generate.
Mr. Pierce also said that the town has been frustrated by what it perceives as a lack of detail about the development, which in turn has slowed the commission’s efforts to calculate appropriate mitigation.
But Mr. Dubay said the basic mix of the proposed village center has remained one-third office, one-third commercial and one-third residential.
“Maybe they weren’t reading our charts correctly,” he said of town officials.
The general manager said Tsakalos Realty Trust now has proposed the addition of assisted and independent living units, but said those units would not impact town services like traditional residential development. Mr. Dubay said the center also would include a 100-room hotel.
Even if the trust does not immediately develop the acres now owned by the town, Mr. Dubay said, the land still will be generating tax revenue, unlike now, since it will move into private ownership.
He acknowledged that the traffic mitigation proposed by the commission has posed a stumbling block to the realty trust. Tsakalos Realty Trust anticipated spending $2 million on traffic mitigation; the commission wants the trust to spend $11 million.
But at this point, Mr. Dubay said, the trust believes it still can absorb the potential traffic mitigation costs and make the project work.
As for the town’s frustration over the slow pace of receiving development details, Mr. Dubay said project construction will be driven by the market. The alternative, he said, is to commit to build buildings for whom there are no tenants.
As it is, Mr. Dubay said, the town will have site plan review powers to evaluate every structure that the trust builds.
Addressing the trust’s purported slow pace on the deal, Mr. Dubay points to the six months between the trust’s development bid and its acceptance by the town. The trust still lacks approved town easements to install necessary sewer lines.
“If anyone has exhibited patience, it’s Tom [Tsakalos],” Mr. Dubay said. “Believe me. I’ve seen it first-hand.”
Mr. Pierce acknowledges that Mr. Tsakalos, who owns the Canterbury, Heritage and Trade Winds shopping centers in the “Golden Triangle,” has “done a lot of great things for the town.”
“But right now,” the selectman said of the South Village deal, “I need to see some things change.”
People should not count on the $4.8 million offered for the land as a sure source of revenue, Mr. Pierce said. The sum has been viewed in some quarters as a way to offset the cost of a new public safety complex for the town.