The city is planning to purchase an old stone house next door to Rockwell Park.
City councilors plan next month to approve a $281,000 deal to buy the 15 Dutton Ave. house but to let its elderly owner remain in the home until he dies or moves away.
Officials have been eyeing the property for a couple of years but wanted to make sure that the city wouldn’t land in the middle of a family dispute about the disposition of the property.
City Councilor Frank Nicastro, who heads the Real Estate Committee, said the property could be a valuable addition to the park.
It appears the city would likely tear down the house once the purchase becomes final.
“It looks like it would come down,” said city Councilor Kevin McCauley.
Jeff Steeg, an assistant city attorney, said a court ruled in May that the family should sell the house and a lot next door. The ruling gave the city the first opportunity to buy it, said Steeg and Salvatore Vitrano, a lawyer for the family.
According to Vitrano, appraisals on the property found that the lot is worth $63,000 while the house is valued at $218,000, for a combined total of $281,000.
Vitrano said the city should purchase the lot and at the same agree to a contract to purchase the house for $218,000 whenever its elderly owner leaves the home for good.
He said that would lock in the price for the city and eliminate any responsibility for taxpayers to maintain the house while the family is still using it.
Vitrano said that the deal would allow the family to use the proceeds from the lot to pay back taxes and keep up the house until it eventually becomes the city’s property.
Nicastro said his concern was that he didn’t want to get in the middle of the family’s arguments about how to handle the property.
Vitrano said the judge’s order resolved the difficulties. He said the city would be on safe ground.
McCauley said the council should endorse the deal at its December 11 meeting. The Planning Commission has already given its blessing to the purchase, Steeg said.
The city is in the middle of a multi-year, $7 million project to remake Rockwell Park by adding more recreational facilities, better parking, a nicer entrance and other amenities aimed at restoring the historic West End park.
Note: The family feud may be worse than Vitrano portrayed it. The city could find itself in the middle of something.
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