City Says ‘No Thanks’ on Willow Avenue Property, Will Collect $10,300

Haverhill city councilors concurred with Mayor James J. Fiorentini, Assessor Stephen C. Gullo and the Conservation Commission on a decision to waive the right of first refusal on a 12.7-acre property on Willow Avenue.

City officials’ choice not to buy a nearly 13-acre lot at 82 Willow Ave. in Ward Hill will put more than $10,000 in deferred property taxes in city coffers, but opens the property to development.

The property was placed under an agricultural tax lien in 2009, which restricted development on the lot in exchange for a deferral of property taxes. The agreement gave the city the right of first refusal to buy the property.

Lawyer Robert C. Harb, who represents property owner Marilyn Descheneau, told city councilors on Tuesday that the sale of the property would return $10,300 to the city. If the city were to buy the property, it would have to meet the purchase price of $610,000 agreed upon between Descheneau and general contractor John W. Davidowicz.

Harb said Davidowicz plans to seek city approval for three single-family house lots on the site.

Tax Assessor Stephen C. Gullo and members of the Conservation Commission recommended the city allow Descheneau to sell the property, saying the city would benefit more from the sale than it would from spending $610,000 to protect the land from development.

Gullo pointed out that in addition to the deferred taxes, the city will reap property taxes every year going forward from the three homes to be built on the property.

The council unanimously approved waiving the city’s right of first refusal, despite Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan’s concerns about traffic on the street, which he described as “very narrow and dangerous.”

Willow Avenue, which links Boston Road and Kingsbury Avenue, has become a cut-through used by drivers to avoid traffic lights installed in the reconstruction of South Main Street in Bradford, said City Council President John A. Michitson.

While councilors agreed with Sullivan that the traffic situation on the street is a problem, they argued that Descheneau shouldn’t pay the price for the city’s inaction on solving it.


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