Selectmen Vote To Sell 'Triangle' Land For Sports Complex
By: JAMES KINSELLA, August 14, 2014
The Sandwich Board of Selectmen today, August 14, rolled the dice on selling 56 acres of town-owned land to a development partnership that plans to build a premier youth athletic tournament complex on the site.
At 5:40 PM, selectman James W. Pierce made a motion to sell the land in the so-called Golden Triangle in South Sandwich to the partnership, which is spearheaded by Clark Consulting of Falmouth.
Selectman Susan R. James seconded the motion. In a roll call vote, the selectmen voted 5-0 in favor of the sale.
A spokesman for the partnership, Paul Cleary, said early this evening that the partners were “extremely excited” by the board’s decision to sell them the land.
The partnership anticipates that their complex will draw young athletes, accompanied by their families, from Massachusetts and other states.
The families would stay in Sandwich. During that stay, the young athletes would participate in tournament games, while the families as a whole could shop and dine out.
The selectmen’s motion was accompanied by a number of conditions.
The major one: that the partnership provide a realistic wastewater solution for the project and an accompanying dollar figure within 30 days to the town.
In a public question-and-answer session with a project evaluation team Tuesday afternoon, August 12, at town hall, Mr. Cleary said that the partnership had budgeted $250,000 for wastewater disposal at its proposed complex, slated to include a fieldhouse, 250 hotel rooms, and retail space in addition to a number of athletic fields. The team said the partnership had estimated the cost of the complex at $113 million.
In light of the complexity and cost of the project, a number of team members were taken aback by what they viewed as an absurdly low financial commitment to wastewater disposal, not to mention a misplaced faith in the capacity of Title V treatment for the complex.
When a team member asked if the partnership would be willing to spend $2 million toward an on- or off-site solution, Mr. Cleary replied, “Absolutely not.”
This afternoon, in a discussion leading up to the vote, the selectmen decided to give the partnership a chance to revise its wastewater treatment figure upward in return for an opportunity to buy and develop the 56 acres.
In an interview early this evening, Mr. Cleary said that partnership members realized the need after Tuesday’s session to push the wastewater number higher.
The spokesman today [August 14] declined to provide a new figure, but confirmed it would be substantially higher than the $250,000 listed in the partnership’s proposal.
The Golden Triangle is bounded by Route 130 and Quaker Meetinghouse and Cotuit roads.
For more than a decade, the town has been trying to sell land that it owns inside the triangle to realize a financial gain, to boost economic opportunity, and to encourage development that will provide more property tax revenue to the town.
But repeated efforts to find a developer and sell the land have come to naught.
In January, a potential deal for the land between the Tsakalos Realty Trust, which owns three shopping centers in the Triangle, and the town fell apart.
On June 16, the town issued a new request for proposals for the land.
Two entities responded.
One was the Tsakalos trust, back at the table, this time offering $1.083 million for 16.75 acres of the overall tract. The trust was proposed a 300,000-square-foot mixed-use development.
The other was the joint partnership, offering $750,000 for the entire tract. The partnership further offered to donate $150,000 to the Sandwich Economic Initiative Corporation, a nonprofit organization formed to boost the town’s economy.
In putting up the land for sale, the town was bound by the requirements of Chapter 30B of the Massachusetts General Laws. The law spells out how the town must proceed to sell assets such as land.
The state requires the town to find a bidder “responsive” to the town’s stipulations before accepting that bid.
The town initially did not find either bidder responsive, but gave each the chance to correct the problem.
In separate question-and-answer sessions Tuesday, August 12, at town hall, a town evaluation team gave both the trust and the partnership a chance to improve the responsiveness of their bids.
Following those sessions, the team determined that the partnership was responsive to the request for proposals, and that the trust was minimally responsive.
In evaluations prepared after the sessions, the team rated the partnership’s bid “advantageous,” and the trust’s bid “not advantageous.”
During today’s board discussion, the selectmen gave short, if any, shrift to the trust bid.
Nearly all of the discussion centered on the partnership, which impressed the evaluation team and the selectmen on a number of criteria in the request for proposals.
The “elephant on the table,” as one selectman put it, remained whether the partnership could address wastewater concerns through a further submission to the town.
The selectmen also raised concerns about the apparently low price that the partnership offered for the tract, $750,000, which at $13,400 per acre was significantly below both the town’s appraisal and the trust’s offer of $65,000 per acre.
Selectman R. Patrick Ellis said he saw evidence in both the low land offer and the low wastewater offer of a classic business technique: that of trying to “make a score,” to obtain something for a below-market price.
But a member of the evaluation team, finance committee member Michael P. Dwyer, questioned the real value of the town land, which at present is 56 acres of unpermitted scrub pine.
Until a developer steps forward to permit and develop the land, he said, the tract would hold little real value.
Mr. Dwyer said the selectmen should view the offer of $750,000 as negotiable in the pending 30-day period, along with every other aspect of a possible agreement.
Mr. Pierce, a clean-shaven if metaphorically grizzled veteran of failed Golden Triangle deals, then said that the town should move forward and offer the land to the partnership. If that did not work out, Mr. Pierce said, the town could try something else.
The selectmen proceeded to make and approve a motion to sell the 56 acres to the partnership for $750,000.
Should the deal go forward, other conditions would be attached to the sale in a purchase-and-sale agreement, including a requirement that the partnership commence development at a time to be determined after the deal closes.
This evening, August 14, Mr. Cleary described the selectmen’s vote awarding the land to the partnership as “the start, it’s not the finish.”
The partnership, he said, “is really dedicated to working on this next step.”
Members of the partnership include Mr. Clark; NRG Energy, owner of the Canal Electric plant and the largest taxpayer in Sandwich; the Dan Duquette Sports Academy, which is headed by Daniel P. Duquette, former general manager of the Boston Red Sox and now executive vice president of the Baltimore Orioles; Boston Global Investors, headed by John B. Hynes III; veteran Boston restaurateur Mark Manning; and retired hockey star Christopher E. Drury, the son-in-law of Mr. Manning.
The partnership has done well in selecting Sandwich for its sports tournament complex, Mr. Cleary said.
“This is the perfect place to headquarter this operation,” he said.