Support from Framingham officials to acquire the Rugg-Gates property is apparently deteriorating faster than the two dilapidated buildings on the site.
Selectman Ginger Esty was the lone voice in favor of continuing the process of working out an acceptable resolution of the problem with the state’s Department of Transportation. But Selectmen Laurie Lee and Dennis Giombetti both expressed doubts that it would be in the town’s best interests to move forward with acquiring the property and buildings.
“There are too many strikes against it,” said Lee. “It’s a Catch 22 situation. You can’t get into the buildings to stabilize them and they are deteriorating and unsafe. It would be very hard for me to accept the buildings if offered (to the town by MassDOT).”
Giombetti went further saying, “I wouldn’t even entertain the idea (of saving the buildings) unless there was a deal in place.” Giombetti was referring to a statement by Esty that there was a developer in the wings eager to take over the property once the town takes possession.
Esty, who has championed the idea of Framingham acquiring the property for decades, gave a brief account of the on-again off-again interest of the state to return all or part of the property to the town under various scenarios.
But last night MassDOT representatives told the selectmen that the state’s intention is to raze the two unsafe buildings and make other use of the land in the future. If Framingham wants the property, it would need to acquire it quickly.
A state inspector has stopped all work on securing the buildings because they are unsafe and rapidly deteriorating.
Framingham Fire Chief Gary Daugherty told the Selectmen his department had placed signs on the buildings that designated them as unsafe to enter.
Framingham Chief of Police Stephen Carl showed the Selectmen pictures of the inadequate fencing surrounding the property and stated that there was nothing to prevent access to the buildings.
Both chiefs stated that the buildings pose a dangerous situation if emergency personnel had to respond to the site.
Built in 1774, the Georgian-style structure sits on land owned by the Turnpike Authority near Route 9.
Selectmen chair Charlie Sisitsky shut off discussion on the topic when he said, “There is nothing in front of us tonight to act on. We’ll put this on the agenda for the next meeting, June 19. Two weeks should be enough time for someone to come forward (to develop the property) and the state to make an offer (for Framingham to acquire the property). If the state wants to make an offer, fine. If not they will have to do what they have to do.”
Sisitsky then charged Alison Steinfeld, director of Community and Economic Development to coordinate with Town Manager Robert Halpin in another attempt to contact MassDOT.
The property and buildings in question are sandwiched between the Massachusetts Turnpike and a Massachusetts Department of Transportation park and ride lot on Route 9 at the western end of town.
The buildings have been abandoned for decades and are unquestionably falling down.
At a previous Selectmen’s meeting, Esty presented a slide show that depicted the buildings’ former glory and how in the late 1800s and early 20th century a giant elm tree on the property was a popular tourist attraction.
The larger building was built in the late 1700s as a home. It was moved to its present site by the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority many years ago. The smaller building dates from the early 20th century and is built entirely of stone. It was known as the Dennett Workshop.