August 30, 2011

Councilors decide today on McDonald's land swap

City councilors may decide today whether to move ahead with a proposed land swap with McDonald’s.
They’re also slated to consider whether to sell 1/6 of an acre to the owner of the Dunkin’ Donuts property that would add 30 feet of space along its entire border with the city-owned former mall site.
The council meets at 5 p.m. today to consider both issues, mostly behind closed doors in executive session.
Though details of the proposed deal with McDonald’s are hard to come by, it appears the city intends to swap about an acre of land next door to Dunkin’ Donuts in return for gaining possession of the property where the fast food restaurant is today.
McDonald’s would own the newly exchanged parcel just as it owns the one it has now.
What isn’t clear is whether all the legal hurdles will be overcome in time for the meeting today.
The city’s attorney, Edward Krawiecki, Jr, said legal issues are “percolating fast and furiously” in preparation for the session, but Mayor Art Ward said they may not all be resolved in time.
Once complete, the deal would leave a bit more than 15 acres in the hands of Long Island-based developer Renaissance Downtowns for its planned revitalization of the city center property.
The land sale to add some space to the Dunkin’ Donuts property appears to have support, but councilors are unsure about the price.
An initial assessment of $20,000 to $25,000 as a sale price didn’t factor in the added value to the property owner, George Varnavelias. So councilors are likely to seek more money.
Gary Constant, his attorney, said the extra land “would enhance the planning possibilities” for the site in the future.
Ryan Porter, project manager for Renaissance, said the extra land adds “far more options” for the Dunkin’ Donuts site in the years ahead.
City Councilor Ken Cockayne called it “a huge value” for the property.
The 30-foot buffer the city is willing to sell, he said, “in my eyes is like gold.”
But Tim Furey, the attorney for Bill and Janet Ghio, who own the doughnut shop and have a long-term lease for the site, said they recently poured a lot of money into renovations so the additional land is unlikely to spur major changes any time soon.
“That ship kind of sailed when the renovations were done,” Furey said.

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