Burgo Basketball had wanted it for recreation center
DARTMOUTH — Town-owned land comprising 30 acres at the corner of Reed Road and State Road will not be put up for sale for recreational use after the Special Town Meeting, held virtually on Tuesday.
Town Meeting members overwhelmingly decided against an article proposing the land sale with 70 votes in favor of it, 150 against it. The article was proposed by the Select Board in a 4-1 vote, while the Finance Committee voted unanimously against it in a 9-0 decision. The Recreation Committee unanimously voted to indefinitely postpone the article.
The article specifically stated that if passed, the land would be for sale strictly for recreational purposes for no more than 30 years, allowing “active and/or passive” recreational uses for at least 50 years. Of the 30 acres of land, 12 acres are made up of wetlands.
Selectman Stanley Mickelson, who provided the sole Select Board vote against selling the land, said during the meeting that the town should be holding on to the assets it has.
“We’ve got a piece of property there that’s worth about a million bucks. I don’t believe personally, and this is myself not as just a Select Board member but as a Town Meeting member, that we should not allow the town to sell any assets at this point. We have so few assets as it is, I think we should hold on to them,” Mickelson said, citing another property previously sold by the town on Clarendon Street as an example.
“We had a piece of property sold on Clarendon Street. We could have used that property now, many years down the line, but we were in a hurry to sell it. We could’ve used that for off-street parking for the Veteran’s Stadium. That was not a good outcome because we were in a rush to judgment,” he said.
Finance Committee chair Teresa Hamm explained the committee’s unanimous decision against the article, citing a “lack of context” about the use of the land, an incomplete feasibility study, and the risk of the value of the property increasing after selling it.
“There were a number of factors: We heard that the feasibility study had been in process but hadn’t completed, we recognized that the Town in the Town Plan workshop spent a long time talking about the need for a recreational facility – that appears to be a need but we were concerned about a lack of context with this,” Hamm said.
Steve Burgo, the president of Burgo Basketball Association, a nonprofit organization that has long run leagues and clinics in a variety of sports for youth across the SouthCoast, presented plans to the Select Board in July to construct a $6 million indoor and outdoor recreational facility on the parcels of land.
Town Administrator Shawn MacInnes clarified prior to the vote that if the article passed it would not guarantee the land would be sold to Burgo Basketball Association.
“There’s not a guarantee that the Burgo company would be the successful bidder on the project. There would be a formal request for proposal, the proposals would be evaluated by a team and ultimately approved by the Select Board. There could be a number of bidders.”
Several Town Meeting members also spoke on the issue, both in favor of passing and in favor of striking down the article.
Kevin Lee, of Precinct 6, said the land would serve both the youth and senior citizens in the north end of Dartmouth, adding that the town has the land and an organization that has “proved their worthiness,” in the Burgo Basketball Association.
“If we just kick this down the road again and not do anything on it, we got another whole generation of kids who are not going to have recreational services in the north end of town. We keep talking about how much we need it and we have the opportunity now. We have the land, we have an entity that has a real good shot of getting it and they have proved their worthiness and follow through with the program they run.”
“I don’t see why we don’t look at this as a real opportunity to sell it. The town gets some money, young people get a facility, and senior citizens get a place to use during the day. It’s a win-win. I don’t know why we keep on stalling with this year after year after year,” he said.
Former Dartmouth Youth Soccer Association President Bob Bouley echoed Lee’s words, saying “I see no reason that we sit on this and wait for another study.”
But another Town Meeting member, Curtis Nunes, said he planned to vote against the article because it was too vague, including that the real estate value of the property hadn’t even been considered.
“This is too vague, the lease option should not have been added. We all know what’s going to go there if this passes and I don’t have a feeling either way on that, but it is an asset. We need to know what that land is worth in the real estate industry,” Nunes said.
Town Meeting voted to end discussion on the issue after approximately 30 minutes, moving to a vote on the article.
Burgo, who had earlier stated during the discussion his desire to discuss his plans for the property if acquired by his organizations, expressed frustration following the vote for not being allowed to speak before the vote was made.
Burgo narrowly lost a write-in select board bid to Mickelson in the spring.
“I would like to know if we can get a vote tonight. I want to speak on the article, I’ll wait until after all of this is over,” Burgo said during the open discussion.
Following the vote, Burgo criticized Town Meeting Moderator Melissa Haskell about moving forward with the vote.
“I told you I wanted to come back before we voted and let people know what we were doing. I wasn’t given that opportunity,” Burgo said.
“That’s not fair. That’s not fair that we cannot tell you what we want to do there and to let the people know that this was not a decision that was made already, that we had to go through the bidding process, it’s not just Burgo. We should’ve been given the opportunity to present our case and I wasn’t, and that’s not fair.”
The Standard-Times was unable to reach Burgo for a request for comment.