By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — Mayor James Fiorentini has gotten permission to sell 14 city-owned properties and use the proceeds to bolster the city’s cash reserves.
The mayor wanted City Council to surplus 19 properties, but councilors decided to hold five lots because they believe those parcels might be more valuable in the future.
The most valuable parcel in the batch is a River Street property assessed at $105,700. Some councilors wanted to allow the mayor to lease it for short, one-year periods only, while others favored allowing the mayor to dispose of the property as he wishes.
The council committee that reviewed the parcels recommended surplusing the River Street property with the condition that Fiorentini be limited to leasing it in one-year increments for up to five years. Other councilors said no one would lease the property under such a restrictive arrangement, however. A compromise proposal to lease the property in two, three-year increments did not pass either.
The River Street property is just west of the Comeau Bridge between a used car dealership at 162 River St. and a multi-unit residential building on the other side. The property was most recently leased from the city by a man who owns the residential building next door, according to city records. Councilor Colin LePage said he believes the lot could be combined with either neighboring property to form a parcel large enough for future development. The city also might want to use it someday as a public dock for boats on the river, LePage said.
Councilors agreed to postpone Fiorentini’s request to surplus the River Street parcel, giving the mayor time to come back to them with another proposal for the parcel if he chooses.
Public land must be declared surplus — unusable or unwanted — by the council before the mayor can try to sell it at auction or by soliciting bids.
The 14 surplused parcels, none of which can built on without approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals, range in value from $500 to $64,500 for a vacant parcel on Tremont Street that once contained a house destroyed by fire many years ago.
It’s now up to the mayor, at his discretion, to sell, lease or otherwise dispose of the 14 properties that have been surplused. They have a combine assessed value of around $275,000.
In the past, the city has used money from the sale of city property to repair and renovate schools and other city buildings, plug budget shortfalls and grow the city’s cash reserves. The mayor has said he plans to put sale proceeds from this batch into the city’s cash reserves.