Questions Raised Over Potential Sale of Tavern Site

The Town Council will try to involve citizens in the sale of town property at an earlier stage, after complaints from residents at the Nov. 19 Council meeting.
Councilors held a second public hearing on the sale of the former Pinkerton Tavern site at 13 Manchester Road. The site is 1.38 acres, Parcel ID 08-274, and was purchased by the town in 2011 to make way for the widening of Route 28/Manchester Road.

The Tavern was dismantled in 2012 and the property has been actively marketed since then, Acting Town Administrator Larry Budreau wrote in a memo. He wrote that he, the Planning Department, Finance Department and Public Works endorsed the sale. Budreau noted that the sale of the unimproved land, to an unnamed “interested buyer,” would bring back approximately $7,500 in tax revenue.
Budreau wrote that the property was purchased for $722,842, and is currently assessed at $255,500.
The first public hearing required by RSA 41:14-a and the Derry General Code was held Nov. 5. The motion is expected to be voted on in the Dec. 3 meeting.
Councilor Mark Osborne questioned the difference between the purchase price and the current assessment. “Was it taken by eminent domain?” he asked.
It was not, Budreau said. Eminent domain is “not a welcome legal process,” and the town chose instead to negotiate with the tavern owners, he said.
“We bought an operating restaurant,” he said, explaining the purchase price. But after tearing down the tavern, “We have a little piece of undeveloped land to sell.” The town, he said, paid full market price for the restaurant, knowing they would not operate it as one.
In the public hearing, resident Marc Flattes expressed concern that the hearings were to discuss selling the property, but a For Sale sign is already up at the site. He also wondered what the brokers, Collier’s International, were being paid.
“You didn’t ask me if you could sell the property,” Flattes said. As for the selling price, “Could you sell it for $255,500 and pay the Realtor $100,000?”
Flattes added, “You should have gone to the residents first. This seems kind of backward.”
Osborne said that because the negotiations are ongoing, it is not practical to discuss the Realtor’s cut or other details in public. “It would be revealing our strategy,” he said.
Resident Kevin Gilchrist expressed concern that the property was not open to other interested buyers, and Steve Trefethen, a commercial Realtor, wondered if the property was listed on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) and other real estate sites or was being privately marketed by Colliers. The more buyers who could look at it, the higher the price would be, Trefethen said.
“I know it’s for sale, I’m not sure other people do,” Trefethen said.
Bev Donovan, a representative of Collier’s, said the property was on the MLS and several other commercial real estate listings. She has had several verbal inquiries on the parcel, but only one written expression of interest, the one the town is currently considering, she said.
Community member Richard Tripp said, “You should have had this meeting a long time ago. This stinks a little – you should have been more proactive.”
Council chair Michael Fairbanks agreed, and said one of his goals is to involve citizens in the process earlier.
The Council will vote on the sale at its Dec. 3 meeting.