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'No Action' Recommended on Iron Rail for At Least 6 Months

The Town Advisory Committee said Wenham town leaders should wait until at least October before making any decision about the future of the Iron Rail property.

A Wenham town committee has recommended the Board of Selectmen “take no action” for at least another six months about whether to redevelop, sell or lease the .

The recommendation came because the committee thought that more information might become available during that time about the future of the nearby Mullen property as well as from a school facilities study.

The town-owned Iron Rail property sits at the corner of Grapevine and Rubbly roads and is home to the highway garage, soccer fields and a brick building that is leased to a and , among other uses.

The Town Advisory Committee, lead by Chairman Larry Swartz, said it did not make sense to move forward with any plan for Iron Rail until town leaders get a better sense for the future of the former Mullen Advertising property at 36 Essex St., which has been largely empty since the company moved to Boston several years ago. The property sites across Grapevine Road, more or less, from Iron Rail.

“The TAC believes that the development of the former Mullen Advertising property will have a significant influence on what will become the highest and best use of the Iron Rail property,” the committee said in its unanimous eight-page report, which is attached to this story as a PDF.

Swartz, in response to a question from Selectmen Chairman Molly Martins, said the date is not based on any specific timeline or deadline regarding the Mullen property or school study.

“There’s no science to the six months,” Swartz said.

Martins later said she did not expect a final report from the school facilities study within six months.

Regardless of progress on Mullen property or the school study, there are maintenance issues with the Iron Rail property, Swartz said.

“At some point the town is going to have to make a decision from the long list of options that are there,” he said.

The TAC’s Iron Rail report was first completed in late April but was not presented to the Selectmen until Tuesday night, so the recommendation to wait six months would mean waiting until at least October.

Town Administrator Jeff Chelgren said he has told property owner Jim Mullen that it is likely that there will be a Special Town Meeting in the fall if he is interested in pursuing a rezoning. Right now, Mullen is looking at the ”carrying capacity” of the land through the septic system on the property, Chelgren said.

At that time, the committee delivered an “interim report” that gave a hint at what was presented this week and told Selectmen not to expect a final report prior to the Annual Town Meeting, which was held early last month.

The Iron Rail property is about 80 acres but the study focused mostly on the eight acres around the buildings on the property, accessed at 91 Grapevine Road. The rest of the property consists largely of soccer fields, accessed from Rubbly Road. The study area also includes the , which Swartz said “is a special piece of property” and should be “given great consideration.”

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