By Jon Bishop
AYER — The Depot Square land swap remains unresolved, according to Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand.
The swap is between the MBTA and landowner Phil Berry and would allow the development of a pedestrian walkway and a vehicular turnaround at the Ayer commuter rail stop.
Pontbriand said the MBTA has contracted with VHB engineering to survey the site, and the land court suit remains in abeyance.
“That’s sort of where we’re at,” he said.
The MBTA’s use of VHB is a positive development, he said. As is the abeyance itself.
He said he hopes an agreement can be reached during the abeyance.
Ayer remains ready to assist in any way possible, he said.
“That’s true of MART as well,” he said.
Pontbriand said the project’s federal earmark remains secure, but the town is cautious about it: after all, the climate in Washington can change quickly.
Also, costs increase as more time continues to pass by.
“The town wants to compete this project,” he said.
Board of Selectmen Chairman Chris Hillman praised Representative Jen Benson for helping him get in touch with Mark Boyle, the assistant general manager for real estate and asset development for the MBTA.
But he said that, overall, he hasn’t heard any updates about progress.
“It’s gone radio silence again,” he said. “I believe they’re waiting to have it surveyed.”
Roy Pastor, attorney for Phil Berry, said they “really were talking about a few feet here and there, so we’re trying to tweak it.”
The limitations have been far more hypothetical, he said, noting that Berry is trying to protect some of the parking around the Medicine Shoppe, located at 50 Main Street.
“(The MBTA) wants all this extra space,” he said, adding that they’re going to lose parking around the Medicine Shoppe to accommodate handicapped individuals who will never be there because the platform isn’t handicap accessible.
“We’re all working on it,” he said.
Pastor was also the one who filed the land court suit.
“We just figured we’d take that right off the table,” he said. “That will give us time to try to negotiate something without any more threats.”
Boyle said via e-mail that they will develop potential layout schemes which will provide for a dedicated and segregated access-way from Main Street to the track crossing and platform. After that, they will be marked and staked in the ground.
“Discussions will then take place with the town, MART, and affected property owner(s) to determine if an acceptable layout can be achieved,” he said. “We anticipate the survey and layout process to be completed in mid (to) late May.”