Wednesday, September 02, 2015
By James Lomuscio
Despite a plea from former Representative Town Meeting (RTM) member Richard Lowenstein that the town not sell its 1921-built Emily McLaury House at 99 Myrtle Ave. but lease it to Homes With Hope (HWH) for $1 a year, Westport’s Board of Finance voted unanimously tonight to recommend its sale.
A main reason was that the town already has a binder on the house for 5 percent more than the $589,000 listing price, according to Selectwoman Helen Garten, who has been coordinating the sale. HWH, a Westport-based nonprofit that serves the homeless, was not among the bidders.
The matter now goes to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) for boundary adjustment on the .7-acre parcel, and following ZBA approval, the sale will be finalized, Garten said. The pending sale already has a positive 8-24 report from the Planning and Zoning Commission and a nod from Historic District Commission.
“We’re very, very pleased with how this process has gone,” said Garten.
The town is selling the house, which it purchased in 1972 and renovated in 2007, to get the building back on the tax rolls and to trim the town’s maintenance costs.
The two-bedroom, one-bath house of less that 1,500-square feet had six bidders shortly after Berkshire Hathaway New England Properties put it on the market in July.
“We wound up accepting the highest offer,” Garten said, adding that the prospective buyer plans to live in the house and preserve it.
Lowenstein, however, made a last minute appeal for the town not to sell it, but to lease it for $1 a year to HWH “for clients who are in desperate need of housing.” He said the town has a similar arrangement with the Linxweiler House at 655 Post Road East that HWH leases for $1 a year.
Lowenstein added that the town is not a good landlord and that HWH is a good tenant as evidenced by Linxweiler, which was bequeathed to the town by Joanna Linxweiler upon her death in 1981.
“Homes With Hope is supportive of my suggestion,” said Lowenstein, saying that HWH President and CEO Jeff Wieser liked the idea, though he did not initiate it.
“This comes from me; it did not come from Jeff,” he added.
Garten responded that there are buildings on the town-owned Baron’s South property that would be suitable for HWH, but not the McLaury House because of its small size.
“We also have a signed binder,” she said, pointing to the pending sale.
“It’s interesting that Mr. Lowenstein came forward at the last moment,” said First Selectman Jim Marpe, who said he is a former member of the HWH board.
“I’m not sure that this is the type of house that works with Homes With Hope,” he added, saying that Lowenstein’s proposal was “fraught with a lot of issues and adds a dimension that was not part of Helen’s analysis.”
Finance Board member Michael Rea, however, said he appreciated Lowenstein’s last minute proposal, calling him the “conscience of Westport.”.
“It’s never too late for the right idea,” Rea said.
Still, he too thought the house was too small for HWH.
“This piece of property has a lot of limitations,” Rea said.
Posted 09/02/15 at 11:17 PM Permalink
CommentsYou must have a Facebook account and be logged to this account (login/logout button above) to post comments. Comments are subject to our Comment Policy.
Did I miss something? $589,000.? On a property that’s .7 acre? Are there restrictions on the deed that lower the value?