EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 3, 2013

Salem police property could be rezoned

By Doug Ireland

---- — SALEM, N.H. — Selectmen will consider a proposal tonight to rezone the police station property on Veterans Memorial Parkway.

But don’t expect anything to happen to the station — or the 15.5 acres on which it sits — any time soon.

Although there’s been talk of the need for a state-of-the-art station for years, there are no immediate plans to build a new facility, according to Selectmen Chairman Everett McBride and Deputy Police Chief Shawn Patten.

When the board meets at 7 p.m. at Town Hall, selectmen and Town Manager Keith Hickey will discuss the need to rezone the property to get the best possible price in case it’s sold, McBride said Friday.

“The idea is if we build a new police station somewhere else, we want to get the most money we can for it,” McBride said.

But the town isn’t expected to consider plans for a new station until 2017 or 2018 at the earliest, he said. Hickey was out of the office Friday and could not be reached for comment.

Even though the town hasn’t decided whether it will sell or keep the property, selectmen need to consider all possible alternatives, McBride said.

To sell the property, the best option is to rezone it for commercial use, he said.

He said while some of the property is zoned commercial, the rest is zoned residential.

“The idea is to make it all commercial,” McBride said.

The town acquired the property in 1965 and built the station a year later, according to tax documents. It’s assessed at $2.7 million.

When Hickey presented his five-year capital improvement plan to selectmen in June 2012, he called for the construction of a $8.7 million police station and a West End fire station in addition to several multimillion-dollar road and bridge projects.

Selectmen have committed to spending at least $4.65 million a year on road projects. The town also had several bridges included on the state’s “red list” of high-priority highway projects.

While board members embraced the road and bridge projects, Selectman Stephen Campbell was shocked to see a plan calling for new police and fire stations.

“There are just things I was amazed when I saw (them),” he said.

When selectmen began reviewing the plan in December, the $3.5 million for a fire station had been removed. Money for a new police station was eliminated later after it was decided the facility was not an immediate priority.

McBride and Selectman James Keller expressed support for a public safety complex to accommodate both the police and fire departments.

“I won’t stop fighting for it,” Keller said.

Patten said Friday that despite selectmen’s plans to discuss rezoning the property tonight, it’s not an issue police officials are considering at this time.

“We’re just focused on the operation of the department,” he said.”

Also tonight, selectmen will hold a public information meeting and hearing on the Salem Depot intersection project and hear a report from Town Moderator Christopher Goodnow on polling locations.