ROCKPORT — Two baskets of purple flowers now hang outside the blue house at 30 Pleasant St., signaling that the so-called Gift House has been sold and is becoming a home.
A Gloucester couple closed the deal on June 28, signing on as homeowners and paying $190,000 for the four-bedroom home, which had been on the active market for a year and has been unused in the town’s hands for about 10 years — and through some $600,000 renovations.
James and Leah Powers have begun the moving process, but were not ready to comment on their acquisition of the property, Leah Powers said Tuesday.
Selectmen, however, are glad to pass on the building, according to Chairwoman Frances Fleming.
“It really is a relief, and it is something really to be celebrated, that it’s finally no longer the town’s responsibility,” Fleming said. “We are glad that there’s an appreciative family there that is thrilled to have it.”
Former Rockport resident James Angelini donated the house to Rockport in 2001, requiring only that the building be moved to a new location, and that the house be sold as an affordable housing property.
The town originally set the price at $220,000, but after receiving no bids last year — likely because those who qualified for affordable housing did not qualify for the higher mortgage — selectmen voted to drop the price tag below the $200,000 mark in February.
“We just had to cut our losses,” Fleming said.
Much of the town’s $541,801.04 renovation expenses piled up in 2001 when, after moving the house to Pleasant Street, the town discovered the lot was toxic and needed significant cleanup. Then, during the cleanup, pipes were not drained and burst when the weather turned cold.
Former Selectman Joanne N. Wile, who voted to approve the acceptance of the Gift House in 2001, said selectmen at the time thought it would be “wonderful for someone in the lower income bracket to be able to live in our town.”
“It’s a shame that it took so long, but that’s the way it is nowadays,” Wile said Tuesday. “There’s so many rules and regulations.”
When the building was donated, Angelini said he had intended for the house, which would have otherwise been demolished in favor of a new building, to be recycled, instead of put in a landfill. Though Angelini blames “mismanagement” on the part of the town for the delayed sale, he is glad the house is finally in use.
“The town just completely screwed it up,” Angelini said Tuesday. “The only reason it didn’t work is because the town put it on toxic land. Otherwise it would have sold immediately.”
Angelini hopes the chaos around the Gift House will not discourage other Rockporters from following his lead and donating functional structures to the town rather than demolishing them.
But Rockporter Donald M. Hyde expressed a popular belief among residents, saying said the town “shouldn’t be in the real estate business” again in the future.
“There’s an element of relief that the thing is off our back,” Hyde said, referring to the house. “But, I’m not confident that the town has learned their lesson.”
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3451, or email@example.com.