HANSON — Maintaining progress at a group of former old Ocean Spray buildings along Main Street, where workers have been installing new windows and siding recently, is key to the future of South Hanson, town officials say.
“We all get a lot of pressure about that,” said Selectmen Chairman Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett. “Every time we see people at an event … they say, ‘What the hell’s going on with that whole area?’”
A past security problem at 1011 Main St., has led the Fire Department and Building Inspector Robert Curran to approve an occupancy permit to help secure the building, Curran told Selectmen at the board’s Tuesday, Aug. 20 meeting.
He said the building has a fire alarm and sprinkler system, but has had issues while renovation work has been done, including a roof collapse from snow pack
“I have been approached by prior Selectmen to try and help this guy the best I can, to encourage him not to close the building down,” Curran said of the building’s owner. “If the building becomes abandoned, then my feeling is, we’re going to be in trouble.”
He said that, in abandoned buildings, sprinkler systems freeze and fail, leaving the structure to become a potential fire hazard.
Curran noted the owner has Zoning Board of Appeals approval for 21 residential units, with 13 planned in the first phase of development.
“The problem is, it’s going to take a lot of money,” Curran said. “I think he’s spent more money on that project than he ever thought he would.”
He added that industrial buildings could always be shut down.
“There’s all kinds of problems all the time,” he said. “What you’ve got to do is hope that everybody’s safe and that you’ve identified most of the structural issues.”
The building’s owner spent more than $100,000 in design so far just to get the residential aspect started, but Curran said he does not think the man was aware of all the new seismic requirements and other requirements.
“This is going to take a, hopefully, positive attitude from the town,” Curran said.
Curran said his vision for the property is a project called The Village at South Hanson with businesses on the first floor and residences two or three floors.
“Then the whole area will start to develop,” he said.
The board of Selectmen planned to meet with the building owner on Wednesday, Aug. 21 to discuss his plans and what the board can do to help, short of a financial investment.
“We need to try to move this ball forward,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said. “It’s a blight and everyone in town acknowledges it — and it’s private property. You can’t really dictate what people can do with their private property.”
“It’s been an ongoing issue since the 1980s,” Curran said. “This building hasn’t looked good in a lot of years. As long as there’s forward movement, I think that’s progress and I do believe that could be downtown Hanson — I really think that is a possibility.”
FitzGerald-Kemmett said the property’s location near the Commuter Rail station makes it logical for such a project.
“I think the attitude of the town has got to be to reach out and help him,” Curran said, noting that some buildings to the rear of the property have been sold and plans are in the works by new owners.
Curran provided a department report to the board, noting the busy time of year for inspections.
There have been 172 residential building permits issued since January and nine commercial building permits, Curran said. The department has also issued 132 electrical permits, 77 for plumbing projects and 93 gas permits.
Curran also reported that he had just completed the back-to-school building inspections.
He has also asked the attorney general’s office for help with eight properties in town through the abandoned housing initiative, one of them being the former liquor store on Main Street as well as buildings on Bayberry Road and West Washington Street, among others.
“They are amazing,” he said of the attorney general’s office. “They’ve helped us tremendously.”
In other business, Selectmen reviewed their goals and warrant articles for the October special Town Meeting.
Troop 68 Boy Scout Zev Andruk also outlined his Eagle project to rehabilitate the three-quarter mile section of the Bay Circuit Trail that winds through the Hanson Town Forest.
The trail passes through two wetlands zones in the town forest and he has received permission from the Conservation Commission for two small foot bridges he plans to put in.
“It needs a lot for it to be an active hiking trail, but with what we have in store for it, we believe we can get it done in just under a month,” Andruk said. “This project is basically reclaiming an entire portion of the town so that it has an entire lap around the town forest, making easy access for town employees or the Fire Department.”
He and Conservation Agent Philip Clemons have already walked the trail and marked trees, mostly fallen, that need to be removed. Clemons has also donated all the four-inch Bay Circuit Trail markers and two larger signs for the parking area. A small ATV will need to be used to haul equipment and chainsaws — which, like the ATVs will be used by adults.
The Board of Selectmen’s permission was needed to use motorized equipment in a conservation area. The board voted to grant that permission.