PEPPERELL — According to town officials and the commercial property Realtor, a prospective buyer for the former Pepperell Paper Co. property on Main Street will introduce himself to the Planning Board at its Dec. 19 meeting.
The buyer, whose identity has not been released, met with Planning Board administrator Inez Gove and Realtor Frank Hartnett Sr. of Hartnett Management Co. Inc. last week to discuss, among other things, potential zoning changes that might need to take place if the property is sold.
Gove and town administrator Robert Hanson said the buyer is considering a mixed-use scenario for the property. A mixed-use means both commercial and residential units.
Hanson said the buyer had visited his office to familiarize himself with the town and its zoning laws.
Gove said no formal plans are expected to be presented at the Planning Board meeting, however, the buyer might discuss his options at that time.
Lord and business partner Andrew Lee, a Norwegian engineer who has a patent pending process to convert municipal solid waste into non-toxic solid fuel, would burn the compacted waste to produce a non-polluting, non-toxic gas that can turn turbines to make electricity.
Waste would be trucked in from Pepperell’s transfer station and those in surrounding towns. The shorter trip and reduced or absent tipping fees — currently $75 per ton — would save the communities money.
Lord visited Pepperell just before Thanksgiving and took pictures of the co-gen plant. Hartnett had told him in November that a buyer for the former paper mill was conducting due diligence.
Lord said BMSI is not concerned who owns the plant because an agreement can be worked out.
Neither Hanson nor highway Superintendent Peter Shattuck put much stock in the success of the BMSI plan.
BMSI would need to receive separated municipal waste from several towns in order to generate enough volume.
Apart from the traffic question, Hanson asked, “Why would Pepperell want to become a repository for regional municipal waste? Why would someone want to build residential property next to a co-generation plant?”
The town had discussed taking the co-gen plant down piecemeal, Hanson said, and moving it out of town with a potential purchaser, but that deal fell through.
During its 100-plus year lifetime, Pepperell Paper was purchased by St. Regis Paper Company, then Merrimack Paper Co. of Lawrence, who closed over two years ago.
The hydro-electric plant, dam and penstock were purchased as a unit last year by Swift River Hydro Company of Wilbraham, who has repaired the dam, installed automatic gates to bring in water and installed one new turbine. The hydro-electric plant suffered a fire in October, but is being reconditioned once again.
Hanson felt the only piece of the Pepperell Paper plant that might be saved in a mixed-use scenario would be the brick office building that fronts Main Street.
Formerly a water-powered paper making facility, turn-of-the-century blueprints for the paper plant indicate it was powered by Nashua River water brought in by a network of canals beneath the buildings.
Afterwards, steam for the plant was generated by coal fires for many years. Railroad tracks led to a trestle built beside Main Street by which coal was brought in. They have long since been removed.
In its final years of operation under ownership of St. Regis Paper and Lawrence Mills, the paper plant had been powered by steam brought in from the co-generation plant through insulated pipes that are still in place.
Perry Videx, whose business is re-selling used industrial equipment, has removed waste paper and chemicals from the site.