More Details, More Questions Surface About Proposals For Town Acres - Editorial

As town officials begin dissecting the two bids they received for 56 acres of town-owned, commercially zoned land in South Sandwich, more details, and more questions, are beginning to surface about both proposals.

One of the entities competing for the acres is Tsakalos Realty Trust. The trust is offering $1.1 million for just about a third of the land—16.75 acres. The trust plans to combine these acres with 50 abutting acres that Tsakalos already owns —half of which have already been developed. On a large plot of land, the trust would construct 160 housing units and a 120-unit hotel along with buildings for retail, office and medical use.

As part of the deal, the trust wants the town to promise that it will not allow directly competing businesses, such as another hotel, to be built on the remaining town acres.

It’s unclear at this point in time if the town could legally agree to such a condition of sale.

In its proposal, the trust noted that this development would generate roughly $2.8 million in property taxes. But on closer examination, the bid documents seem to state that $2 million of that would be generated by the trust’s existing property, with only $800,000 coming from the new acres.

Also, according to the bid documents, the development is a multi-phased project. And development of the town acres would be the last phase—roughly 10 to 15 years out.

Asked if the trust’s plan cuts the more than 56 acres into odd shapes that might be difficult to manage for another developer, town manager Bud Dunham said no. “The acres that Tsakalos wants is to the north, right up against his other acres,” he said. 

The other entity courting the town for the land is a joint development partnership that includes Canal plant owner NRG Energy Inc., Falmouth Properties, Dan Duquette Sports Academy and Boston Global Investors.

The partnership has proposed building two hotels, a smattering of retail buildings, a large indoor sports complex and a slew of outdoor fields.

The partnership has also proposed buying the entire 56-acre property for a mere $750,000.

The trust, meanwhile, has also offered a $150,000 donation to the Sandwich Economic Initiatives Corporation as part of the deal.

According to the bid documents, the partnership is prepared to invest $150 million in the project.

As add-ons, the partnership said, it is also considering constructing an indoor hockey rink and Olympic-size swimming pool near the Sandwich Marina and more athletic fields in the Sandwich Industrial Park.

While $750,000 is a paltry sum for such valuable acres (hence the land’s nickname, The Golden Triangle), the town is less interested in this one-time money that it is in the long-term, recurring tax revenue that any development would generate.

Interestingly, the partnership makes no reference to how much property tax revenue their development would generate.

Asked for his best estimate on how much such a development would be taxed, Sandwich’s principal assessor, Ed Childs, declined to answer. He said he has been brought in on the early review of the two proposals, but he said those discussions have been held behind closed doors in executive session.

“I really can’t comment at this point,” Mr. Childs said this week.

Mr. Dunham also would not provide much information, but did say that while the partnership’s project is large, a big portion of it is sports fields. And in terms of tax revenue generation, sports fields are not a big ticket item.

But it’s very early in the review process for these two proposals. Mr. Dunham said he and his staff are still assembling a list of documents they will need from the two bidders, which were missing from the initial submission, so that they can conduct a complete and thorough review of the proposals.

There seems to be a chance that one or both of these bidders could fail to provide the needed documents, and their proposal would be dropped from consideration.

Time will tell.

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