ESSEX — Selectmen plan to ask Town Meeting this spring to give them the authority to place all Conomo Point properties south of Robbins Island Road up for sale.
"Within three years those (homes on the southern half of Conomo Point) would all be up for sale," said Selectmen Jeffrey Jones.
Selectmen discussed the sale of southern Conomo Point as part of their conversation about the warrant for Town Meeting at their Monday's meeting
Other articles discussed included lingering questions about what to do with northern Conomo Point, the possible need for another consultant, special legislation about how to use the revenue from the sales of Conomo Point property and a question of who would cover the cost of roadwork called for in the Conomo Point subdivision plan.
Selectmen have called for the sale of southern Conomo Point homes before, including in a statement from April 2011, where the town's leaders expressed their support for a plan to sell after the bridge leases expire. The statement also recommends that the town retain only the properties in northern Conomo Point that are "best suited to potential waterfront access" and sell the rest.
"We've been accused of not having a plan, but we have a plan," Selectman Lisa O'Donnell said Monday night.
Even if the plan is approved by Town Meeting, it may still hit roadblocks.
Selectmen want the state to exempt Essex from Chapter 30b, a section of the state's general laws that covers bidding for real estate and other municipal projects.
So far, however, the state has only given Essex an exemption for the part of the law that covers short-term leases, not for long-term leases or sales.
"It got split in two," state Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, said Tuesday of the request. "Because there was a lot of complexity, the committee decided to move forward just on the part about short-term leases."
Essex initially filed for an exemption to the law, which would restrict the way Essex could accept bids or sale offers, on Nov. 29, 2010, and was granted partial approval on May 2, 2011. The town asked the Legislature to reconsider on Sept. 13, and is still waiting to hear back.
Tarr said that, while he does not expect the exemption will be approved soon, he believes it will gain full legislative approval.
"It's going to take a lot of work, but ultimately we will be able to find a path forward," said Tarr.
Not everyone came away from Monday night's meeting with a sense of optimism.
Jud Pratt and Sarah Cushing, residents of Conomo Point, said they do not feel positively about the plan.
"They're ignoring issues that are important to the residents at Conomo," said Pratt. Pratt said he had emailed selectmen with questions about Conomo Point that were not discussed, though the agenda for the meeting said selectmen would answer questions posed to them.
Pratt said he had hoped to talk with selectmen about the question of who owns the houses at Conomo Point. Along those lines, the town has claimed ownership recently, but residents — who pay leases for the property but also pay property taxes on the houses — maintain they own the homes,
Pratt said he also questions the fairness of the appraisals for the bridge leases, and what will happen to elderly Conomo Point residents.
"I'm trying to work with them," Pratt said of town officials. "It's not easy."
There will be a public hearing about Conomo Point next Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Essex Elementary School. Selectmen said they will answer questions at that time.
Stephanie Bergman can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.