ROCKPORT — The long-awaited Tool Company Task Force report, delivered to selectmen Tuesday, contains one basic message: Wait.
"The Task Force recommends against taking any action to purchase the property at least until the special permits and variances granted by the Board of Appeals expire," the report says.
The Cape Ann Tool Company site, has been called an eyesore nearly ever since being vacated in 1987. Property owner Old Colony Maritime LLC, headed by Christopher Kaneb, has permits to build residential condominiums as well as some commercial buildings, but those permits begin to expire in November.
Nothing has been built on the site yet, largely because a lawsuit led by local activist Stevan Goldin delayed the proceedings. By the time the suit was dismissed, the economic downturn had sunk the condominium real estate market — the centerpiece of the multi-use project — and Old Colony had lost interest in developing the site itself.
As long as work begins by November, the permits will not expire. But Kaneb has made no new move to do so.
Kaneb has said he is willing to sell the property for $2.9 million, though the task force report estimates that the town would be able to buy the property for $2.5 million. Rockport's fall Town Meeting voted to have selectmen study the possibility of the town acquiring the property, to keep as public land or to develop.
Beyond acquiring the land, the Task Force looked into having the buildings on the property condemned, which would allow the town to tear down them without taking ownership of the land. According to the Task Force report, however, this option isn't reasonable.
"There is nothing that we found in our research that suggests the buildings are condemnable," said Selectwoman Erin Batistelli, chairwoman of the ad-hoc task force.
According to the report, most of the health-related concerns that have been raised about toxins on the site, including lead paint and asbestos, only become factors in the environment when the buildings are torn down. The situation is something of a Catch-22, the report notes: the rusting buildings seem unsafe and could damage the environment, but the danger to the environment may prove greatest when the buildings are demolished.
Though the report recommended encouraging Kaneb to sell the property to someone who would build on it based on permitted uses, that recommendation was by no mean unanimous.
"I don't think condominiums are enhancing the town character," said Task Force member Zenas Seppala.
Seppala wrote a six-page dissenting opinion that was attached to the copies of the report given to selectmen — though it was not posted online as of Thursday. Seppala does not make any solid recommendations himself, but does say that he does not think the existing permits offer the best solution for the site.
The report is available at the library and selectmen's office. It is also online at http://www.town.rockport.ma.us/doc/001/Tool%20CompanyTask%20Force%20Report%202-29-12.pdf.
If that is overwhelming, go to www.town.rockport.ma.us, then click on the link for selectmen, then click on "reports." The Task Force report is the first link on that page.
No matter what the report recommended, the town faces a basic problem when trying to manage what happens to the Tool Company site, articulated by Peter Bergholtz, a member of the task force.
"It's private property," he said.
Stephanie Bergman can contacted at 978-283-7000 x3451 or email@example.com