EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 4, 2013

Plaistow to swap land for cemetery, police station expansion

By Alex Lippa

---- — PLAISTOW — A land swap could give the town room to expand the police station and the town cemetery.

The town is close to a deal with Alden Palmer. He would swap 3.5 acres between the police station and the cemetery for a similar-size lot off Center Circle, directly across from First Baptist Church.

Town Manager Sean Fitzgerald said the two parcels are of comparable value.

Not only would it give the town room for a potential station expansion, it would give the cemetery room to grow.

“We have successfully negotiated an exchange of land with no cost,” Fitzgerald said.

The land swap has to be evaluated by the Planning Board and the Conservation Commission before selectmen make a final decision.

If the deal is completed, most of the parcel would go for cemetery expansion, Fitzgerald said, which only has about 15 years of capacity remaining. The new land would provide room for between 400 and 500 plots, he said.

The town has been trying to get a new public safety complex built for several years. Voters rejected a $25,000 feasibility study in 2010.

“The police station is a huge problem because we are packing so many people into a small spot,” police Chief Stephen Savage said. “I think we had seven or eight people working when it was built and now we have 29 to 30 in the same amount of space.”

The current police station is a little less than 5,000 square feet.

Savage said the agreement was a major first step in eventually getting a complex built.

“We will get by with what we have right now,” he said. “This is something that is going to happen long after I’m done as police chief. The people will tell us when the time is right for it to be built.”

The agreement also gives the town the right of first refusal for an additional 23 acres.

“That is a very important part of the agreement,” Fitzgerald said. “It will give the town significant control over a very important piece of property that, at some future point, will likely be developed.”

The town is required to hold two public hearings on the land swap, but they have not been scheduled.