Conclusion of a two-part story
PEPPERELL -- The best solution for the former Peter Fitzpatrick School, said Economic Development Advisory Committee member John Masiello, is to convert it to commercial use. But to do that, the property would have to be rezoned.
And with such issues as job creation, medical services, and more restaurants having been identified as businesses that residents would like to see, uniform zoning of Main Street and Route 111 is something the committee would like to see.
"Right now, where the former Conway Chevy dealership was located on Route 111 is all zoned residential," said Masiello, owner of Masy Systems. "That makes it difficult to do anything new there. Meanwhile, on Route 119, we have a gas station whose owners want to sell. Somebody wants to buy it and add a convenience store but they can't do that until they get a variance."
Masiello said that was because zoning along Main Street is a patchwork of commercial and residential zones, something that needs to be straightened out
"The town is open to new business," said Masiello. "Two or three years ago, we had a tax incentive opportunity between the state and the town, but we weren't in a designated economic development area. We had to go to a neighboring town like Groton to partner with. So that's what we did. We asked Groton if we could be part of their area and they said yes.
Masiello said another, similar economic development issue came up for a vote a few months ago, and that too passed, albeit not quite unanimously.
"But it was clearly a majority," Masiello said.
"From a business person's perspective, the more business you have in town, the more tax revenue you collect," said Masiello, noting that Pepperell maintained the same tax rate for both residential and commercial property. "There would be a better return for the town if we got more businesses to come here. It's simple economics, and it makes sense. Business right now is not being held back in town, but the committee just wants to evaluate the situation."
To sum up, once the committee has finished collating the information gained from its survey, Masiello said members plan to move quickly to tackle zoning issues relating to Main Street and Route 111 and what to do about the Peter Fitzpatrick School.
-- Pierre Comtois