Selectmen move forward with art collector lease-sale deal

The selectmen moved forward with a long discussed lease-sale of some of the Schlumberger property to an art collector Wednesday night in part of a three pronged plan to recover some of the $7 million taxpayers invested in the property.

The board voted to:

  • Sign an agreement that should lead to voters being presented with a $3.4-million lease-purchase agreement for an approximately 12-acre area that would be used largely to house a private art collection;
  • Put out a second “request for proposals” from buyers interested in developing a 10 acre multifamily-zoned area off Sunset Lane, where voters recently rejected a $4-million sale to the construction firm Toll Brothers, which planned building 30 condominium units to be marketed in the $700,000 range;
  • Move ahead with plans to demolish most of the old Schlumberger buildings, leaving the four structures in the “campus area” that are expected to be re-purposed by the art collector.

The vote 3-to-2, with Selectmen Di Masters and Maureen Kozlark joining First Selectmen Rudy Marconi in favor of the plan, while Barbara Manners and Andy Bodner were opposed.

“I’m all for moving this forward. Let the time-line start. Let the people decide,” Ms. Masters said.

The proposed lease-purchase agreement with the art collector is outlined in a contract the selectmen had been negotiating for close to two years, and which their lawyer had reviewed with them in an executive session Wednesday afternoon.

Mr. Marconi confirmed after Wednesday night’s meeting that the deal involves a total amount of about $3,450,000, with payments of $240,000 a year — $60,000 of the annual payment simple rent and $180,000 credited toward the eventual purchase.

The deal is a lease with an eventual purchase because the selectmen are wary of any proposal to sell the property in the near term. Under Connecticut law, the town would become responsible for clean-up of environmental pollution on the site if sells the property before the state approves as complete the clean-up that is currently being financed by Schlumberger.

The selectmen will be pushing ahead with the demolition of buildings on the site in part to advance both the environmental clean up and potential reselling of parts of the property.

The contract has two due-diligence periods, and the selectmen envision the proposal going to a public hearing and a referendum if the buyer still wants to pursue the purchase after the first 60-day due diligence period is up.

There is also a second 30-day due diligence period, and one of the reasons the selectmen acted Wednesday night after receiving the finalized contract that afternoon was to get the process rolling with the hope the final proposal could be put before voters as part of the November election ballot — possibly along with plans for a sale of the 10-acre parcel, as well.

On the 10-acres off Sunset Lane, the selectmen seemed inclined to see what prospective buyers propose doing with site, which is zoned for multifamily use at six units an acre, or eight units an acres if substantial portion of the meet “affordable” standards.

The Toll Brothers offer that voters narrowly rejected involved a $4-million purchase price, and plans for a 30-unit condo development.

The board’s discussion touched on opinions offered during three public hearings that board had called in the wake of the ‘no’ referendum vote on the Toll Brothers deal.

Board members noted that Toll Brothers still seemed to be interested, but that numerous other parties were also interested.

They discussed a perception that some of the opposition to the Toll Brothers plan stemmed from the plan to market the units for $700,000 or more — a price range which would exclude many Ridgefielders hoping to retire and sell homes that would likely bring about $400,000. But selling units at a lower price would require either that the density be increased above the 30-units Toll Brothers had planned, or that the town accept a lower price in selling the land — arguably subsidizing the units lower price.

Some board member seemed uncomfortable with either of these possibilities.

“I’d be very careful trying to engineer a price point,” said Selectman Maureen Kozlark.

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  • Ellen Burns

    So why did the Selectmen bother with holding public hearings when they intended to go ahead with exactly what they were planning all along? Many people asked for a master plan for the site, with consideration for future municipal needs, yet the Selectmen voted to stay on the same course. Very discouraging.

  • Wants to know

    Why will it cost about $1 million to demolish the unneeded / unwanted Schlumberger buildings here in Ridgefield, yet there is a story today out of Naugatuck where it will cost only $98,000 to demolish a similar amount of space in their town?

    • .38 special

      ‘Art collector’ deal? Soon, Marconi says
      That deal is already being moved into a building on route 7. The Board is contractually obligated to get Ct DEEP clearance for the toxic waste clean up before they can re sell. They’ve stolen $ 7 million dollars from theTreasury in 2 1/2 years. That’s just on two deals. How are things in Naugatuck.?

  • .38 special

    Still wondering why we have to recover $ 7 million when Town Finance records indicate $ 6 million in funds were transferred. It could be that the board is trying to recoup the $1 million it spent the ledges ” purchase” for Pelliccione Stevens and Curry. Our tax dollars were used to spend to pay their loan off. Since Feb. 2012 The Ridgefield Treasury has funded $ 7 million for projects that do nothing for the Town. Do you think some of that could have been used for Public Safety and Education?
    It’s time for the board of selectmen to resign.

  • Bob Cascella

    The Selectmen held not one, not two but three public hearing and the majority of those attending asked them to craft a plan for the site. They retread the same nonsense as the last time and muscle it through in the middle of summer when they hope nobody is paying attention. Even the Ridgefield Press stated the Selectmen needed to plan! Why did you waste your time and ours? What happened to listening to the electorate? Ridgefield deserves better. My thanks to Andy Bodner and Barbara Manners for having the business acumen and common sense to vote no.

  • Nora Cascella

    Ladies and Gentlemen of Ridgefield, it is time to get into the voting booths! Enough lip service from our representatives. Thank you very much Barbara Manners and Andy Bodner for voting the wishes of your constituents!

    • .38 special

      Hi Nora. Don’t thank them too quickly! They voted to pay off loans for their associates with our tax dollars. It’s time to clean house in Town Hall.

  • SmallTownUSA

    Really? Rudy arranged to have 3 seperate town meetings to discuss other options other than the Toll Brothers and selling off the property to build more homes. It’s public knowledge the MAJORITY OF RIDGEFIELD CITIZENS DO NOT WANT more building – WHY IS HE AND OTHER OFFICALS trying to jam this down our throats!?? How many times do they need to hear it?? Rudy- your job is to LISTEN TO THE PEOPLE WHO VOTED YOU IN!! you are not listening! Instead of focusing on getting more revenue from building more condos in an already saturated town—- why not shift your focus to building up businesses in the Ridgefield area of RT 7??? get your money that way – stop building condo’s in Ridgefield. Ridgefield is slowly losing it’s charm – thanks to you and the greedy builders. Pitiful,… and sad.

  • .38 special

    If we don’t force resignations now, the Town will be taken over by The State just as Rudy’s term runs out. Think about that option versus putting competent officials in place now.

  • Watching

    Somethings seems really off with the financials of this deal. You can buy a home in Ridgefield for about $250 per sq ft. But with this art deal, we are selling not just the land, but some really fine buildings, at a price of about $40 per sq. ft. Why is the cost so low?

    I can look at it a different way. If I considered just the land, we are selling 12 acres at $250,000 per acre. But we were just offered $400,000 per acre from Toll Brothers for the adjacent property. Then consider this art deal land has some very good looking usable buildings on it. Shouldn’t that make the price go up, not down?

    Somethings seems off to me..

    • .38 special

      Is it clear now why we have a $93 million dollar deficit? Time to remove the Town Officials on the upper level. Don’t worry about temporary vacancies. They don’t do anything but throw away our tax revenues to associates. Our Town is run daily by dedicated civil servants whose names never make the Ridgefield Press. They will carry us through.

  • TimelyIsGood

    Why does it sometimes take like 4 days for a comment to appear on this website?

    I miss Jack Sanders.

  • .38 special

    The Selectmen still owe you millions Ridgefield. They’re proposing a lease purchase. The contract for this transaction should be as interesting as the Purchase agreement with Schlumberger. ( We’re still looking for a million dollars not accounted for at signing) Let’s not forget The ledges deal. Did the Treasury get our money back from Pelliccione Stevens and Curry? When will the lease contract for the art deal be ready for public review ? It should be ready now if The selectmen are moving now.There is an urgent need for a compliance officer to be installed in Ridgefield. ( Just as urgent as removal of the board) We have to have an advocate to stop these practices. It’s our money and we are $93 million in debt with public works projects,pension fund guarantees, and other priorities that need to be addressed. There have been a history of losses with these deals

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