WHITMAN — The Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, Aug. 11 voted to authorize a grant application to fund the next level of site assessments on the Regal Property, a vacant lot next to the commuter rail on South Avenue.
The town contracted with Ransom Consulting in 2017 to perform Phase 1 and 2 site assessments of the property, according to Assistant Town Administrator Lisa Green. Grants from Mass. Development funded the assessments.
“We’ve got some ideas of the nature and level of the ground contamination and … there is still an amount of work to be done, a Phase 3 type of assessment to determine what it’s done to the soil and groundwater,” she said, noting a comprehensive settlement and surface water settling study remains to be done. “They need to assess the ecological characterizations of the land and also do a human health assessment and what impact it might have to future site occupants.”
The third assessment is in the cost area of $63,900 and a lack of funding had halted its progress. Green noted, however that there has been a lot of progress in the realm of brownfields redevelopment over the last three years, with more state and federal funds being made available. She still has to reach out to Ransom to obtain an updated grant proposal and cost analysis.
Grants for such work are now up to $100,000 she said.
“We would get enough money to finish the site assessment an know exactly what we’re dealing with,” she said.
Protection from municipal liability in proceeding with projects on such sites is now available by statute through the Attorney General’s office, Green advised.
While the town would have to pay the grants back if the property was sold at a large profit, Green said that is not likely because the land has been under tax title for so long.
“A huge selling point for the Regal property is it’s right next to the commuter rail station,” she said. “There will be lots of eyes on that property once we know what we’re dealing with in terms of redevelopment.”
A wetlands survey has determined that just over four acres of the property is developable. A similar brownfields property of 3.36 acres in Jamaica Plain was developed to include 132 housing units and retail/office space and self-storage building, which created 90 jobs.
Green also spoke about the Community Preservation Act ballot question on the state ballot, now that the act has been passed at the July 27 Town Meeting. Selectmen voted to place the question on the ballot.
Selectman also heard an update from Green on a housing production plan, which also must be approved by the Planning Board, but it did not recommend doing so.
Green had asked for waiver of that approval from the Old Colony Planning Board, which declined to do so.
“It’s very disappointing in that adopting this housing production plan and having it recognized by that department, would have opened up some grant opportunities for us,” she said.
In other business, Selectmen approved a farmers’ series pouring permit on the premises at 599 Washington St. — the block where Supreme Pizza is located. A common victualler’s license was also granted for the location.
Old Colony Brewing co-owner Dennis Nash said the plan for the site at 605 Bedford St., foregoing the pouring license there. They will instead brew the beer at the Bedford Street location and operate a taproom on Washington Street. No outdoor dining is planned like is currently offered at Bedford Street and only 25 seats are planned at the Washington Street site under current COVID-19 safety guidelines.
Owners of other businesses in the town center — including John and Craig Duval, whose family has owned Duval’s pharmacy for 74 years, along with another area businessman, expressed concern over parking. A concern shared by Health Board Chairman Eric Joubert.
Building Inspector Bob Curran said a bar or business in that area are permitted by right an have never had to go before the board of Appeals. He also said most of the taproom’s parking needs would occur on nights or weekends when there is not typically a lot of traffic downtown.
The board also recommended revisiting the parking issue if a problem crops up.