October 1, 2022

Essex Selectmen Seek Information on Grant for Purchase of Vacant Dealership Site

ESSEX— The board of selectmen is seeking information on a federal grant that could be used to cover most of the cost of purchasing the former Crest Mazda car dealership parcel at 7 Main St. in the Ivoryton section.

First Selectman Phil Miller told the board last week the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers a grant that would cover 75 percent of the cost of acquiring former commercial and industrial properties located in a designated flood plain. The car dealership parcel is located in the 50-year and 100-year flood plain for the Mill Pond of the Falls River. The grant program is intended to encourage the conversion of these properties in to designated open space land and parks.

The car dealership, with frontage on the widest section of the Mill Pond, has been vacant since July 2010. The 1.5-acre site has been an automobile dealership since the early 1900s, beginning with the long-running Behrens & Bushnell Buick dealership.
Miller said the grant would cover 75 percent of the expense of acquiring a parcel, with the city or town expected to provide a 25 percent match. The parcel, now owned by the Grand Pacific Holding Corp. of Flushing, N.Y., has been assessed at about $777,000. Miller said there has been little interest shown for the property on the local real estate market.

Selectman Norman Needleman said he would need confirmation the grant amount also covers the cost of converting a property in to a park or designated open space, including any costs related to environmental cleanup. Needleman said the parcel, which is largely paved with one large building, could have environmental contamination issues related to its former use. “We want to be careful about taking on the responsibility of having to clean it up,” he said.

The board agreed to discuss the issue further at a future meeting, while also allowing Miller to spend about $600 for an elevation survey of the parcel that is required for any grant application.