CUMBERLAND – The town of Cumberland will take ownership of a Cumberland Hill parking lot for $1, accepting it from the state as officials look to preserve parking for businesses in the area, including neighboring Poppy’s.

The Town Council, at its June 1 meeting, debated the merits of acquiring the 7,300-square-foot lot near the busy intersection of Mendon and Manville Hill roads and unanimously agreed to acquire it.

Councilor Bob Shaw, who represents the area, said he’d previously asked for a delay on a decision as he sought more information, including on whether the town would be held liable for any environmental issues. He said he wanted to get a handle on whether municipal lots even exist in town and how it works to maintain one.

Shaw said he was somewhat surprised that the state was willing to sell the property for $1. In addition to questions on liability for contamination or other issues, Shaw said he also wanted to make sure the town was maintaining the status quo on parking for the businesses the lot serves.

Town Solicitor Kelley Morris Salvatore said a phase-one survey would typically identify any potential issues.

From his research, said Shaw, he learned that the state acquired the property by eminent domain back in the day as Mendon Road was being widened and having sewer lines added, so that businesses would have a public place to park instead of the on-street parking that was taken out.

Shaw asked what course of action would be best in making sure the property is kept for parking in the same character it is in today, and not sold for new construction, saying he would also like to see signage installed announcing the intent of the lot to the public.

Morris Salvatore said the state is intending to convey the lot with the restriction on development, as state officials want to maintain parking for the public, and the town is free to add signage as it pleases.

Councilor Scott Schmitt asked about whether the town should look into researching who the property was originally taken from. Morris Salvatore said she supposes that officials could look into how it was taken, but such a property typically becomes part of the street.

The council ultimately voted to take possession of the lot without researching its prior owner.

Schmitt asked Shaw what beneficial use the property will serve, and Shaw explained that there are a number of benefits, including maintaining the parking for businesses that rely on it and protecting the investments those businesses have made. He said it would affect the character of the whole intersection if the lot was lost to development “because a lot of businesses depend on that.”

Schmitt asked if it would make more sense to sell it to one of the businesses, but Shaw emphasized that multiple businesses use it. This is really like District 5’s own Broad Street, he said, the most congested part of the area, and maintaining parking is important.

Councilor Peter Bradley agreed, saying everyone’s seen the impact of limited parking in Ashton, Berkeley, and along Broad Street.

The town is already responsible for clearing snow from the sidewalks from Poppy’s to Cumberland High School, said Shaw, so it wouldn’t be a big lift to add the parking lot next to them.

Mayor Jeff Mutter said he too would be concerned about disposing of town-owned property. Even if there is an intention to maintain it for parking, he said, someone else could come in and bid higher and then charge businesses whatever rate they choose to allow them to use the parking. It’s important to maintain it to serve a need for existing businesses, he said, and he would look to avoid exposing the town to any further risk.

Council President Mike Kinch said the lot has value to a lot of people and entities, including for school drop-offs. He noted that any statements about the property’s history to this point have been “more hearsay than anything.”

(2) comments

chief

If this lot is used by private business does the town hold the liability if someone were to get injured ?

AlfaRacer98

Is this that big lot, on the right, just as you begin down Manville Hill Road...it behind the the Sun Tan Salon and Cumberland Farms??

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