The owner of the Cape Ann Tool Company property and its decaying buildings said Wednesday he's willing to sell the site to the town of Rockport.
But Christopher Kaneb, principal owner of Old Colony Maritime. told the Times Wednesday he hasn't yet set a price for marketing the site — and that no one from the town has approached him about it.
"I'm willing to sell it to the town and I would like to see the property develop as permitted by the town," said Kaneb, who has seen his own plans for a multi-use development there stymied by a legal challenge from Gloucester activist Stevan Goldin and 10 intervenors, and then by the economy's impact on the condominium market.
The proposed demolition of the Cape Ann Old Tool Company buildings, and the buying of the land it sits on, was on the agenda when Rockport's Finance Committee requested the town's Board of Selectmen to join them in a Tuesday night meeting to discuss the warrant for the Fall Town Meeting, which is set for Monday night.
And residents will be asked at the meeting to back a petition calling for demolition of former Tool Co. buildings at Pigeon Cove.
But while the article calls for the town to take the steps so it can demolish the building, selectmen and members of the Finance Committee are wary that the town cannot afford to purchase the site to gain control of it, said Selectman Sandy Jacques.
"We don't have enough money," said Jacques. "And that's why I initially wanted to talk to Kaneb about the price, though now I see that would be difficult."
Jacques said that could likely only happen after Town Meeting, because, as of now, selectmen are unsure what the town's decision will be.
Town Administrator Linda Sanders said Wednesday that, if the town votes for the article, the Board of Selectmen will negotiate a price with Kaneb, who put the property on the block earlier this year.
"Basically, the vote would authorize the selectmen to find the best deal," said Sanders. "If a deal cannot be negotiated, just like anything else, the property cannot be purchased."
Paul Murphy was the only selectmen who endorsed the petition.
"In my mind, it's the No. 1 issue facing Rockport," said Murphy. "I like that people are talking about it, that it's building momentum, and I think something's going to be done.
"I have yet to meet anyone that's disagreed that the thing must come down one way or another," he added. "That doesn't mean I'm necessarily in favor of the town buying it, but I do think something has to be done about it sooner than later."
Sanders said that, while the original petition — which specifically asks the town to buy the land and destroy the building — cannot change, any motion for its approval can be amended on the Town Meeting floor.
There's no saying as to what a change to the motion would look like, but Jacques said any change has to remain "within the scope of the article."
Jesse Poole can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3447, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.