HAVERHILL — The expression "buyer beware" is especially true when purchasing land from the city.\
At the very least, anyone interested in any of 19 city-owned properties that Mayor James Fiorentini has asked City Council to surplus would be wise to research and visually inspect the properties, some councilors said. 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 parcels, none of which are buildable without approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals, have a combined assessed value of about $400,000.
A recent walking tour of some of the properties revealed several odd and unaccessible lots, including one at the bottom of a steep embankment with a creek running through it.
That parcel, in a residential neighborhood on Glen Meadow Road, looks attractive on paper. It's sandwiched between single-family homes and appears large enough for a home — on paper. In actuality, the land runs up to a cliff and contains a stream fed by a large city pipe running under a nearby road.
Other parcels up for surplus are slivers of land that aren't accessible by existing roads. Some show on city maps that they could eventually be reached by a "paper street" that doesn't exist.
At a recent meeting, some councilors recommended against selling the worst of the batch. Others said the council should let the mayor try to sell them all if he can.
"If they are unsellable, the mayor won't be able to sell them," City Councilor Michael Hart said. "But I think we should let him see if someone wants them, maybe an abutter who wants to increase the size of their property."
In the past, Fiorentini 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 said he plans to use most of the proceeds from this batch to boost the city's cash reserves.