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Options Run From the 'Sublime to the Ridiculous" for Iron Rail Property

A Wenham town committee lays out preliminary ideas, plans to offer options on the piece of town-owned land in two to three months.

The Town Advisory Committee in Wenham expects to make recommendations in the next two to three months on what the town should do with eight acres of town-owned property at the Iron Rail property on Grapevine Road.

But the recommendations to the Selectmen will not come in time for any action at this year's Town Meeting.

In what was described as an Interim Property Assessment Report, Committee Chairman Larry Swartz told the Selectmen On Tuesday night that the committee is recommending that it limit the committee's focus to the Iron Rail buildings, which include the , the and a three-stall garage. It proposed that the yard and the soccer field parking area be excluded from the committee's study.

Swartz also said the committee recommends that town negotiate a new lease with the Hamilton-Wenham Youth Soccer Association for the playing fields for "whatever timeline is deemed appropriate, which will protect the town's interest and maintain as many options as possible," the interim report said.

The soccer association currently has five years left on its current lease. Swartz said there is some concern about drainage issues at the fields that the town may want to address in the new lease.

The committee was appointed last September to study three town-owned properties and advise the Selectmen on what action should be taken on each property. In addition to the Iron Rail Property, the committee is researching the Dearborn Property, adjacent to Topsfield Road and Wenham Lake; and Boulder Lane, an undeveloped area off Grapevine Road and next to Route 128.

Swartz told the Selectmen that the committee would not have a recommendation for the Dearborn Property and Boulder Lane for several months. He said the committee was going back to the beginning on these properties to understand fully the potential of each property to the town.

The report lists 11 options for the Iron Rail Property under review from the committee. Selectmen Chairman Molly Martins described the options as "everything from the sublime to the ridiculous."

The 11 options for the Iron Rail property ranged from maintaining the status quo with new leases to current tenants to selling off the property and adjacent land for development for a variety of uses. Those uses listed include a nursing home, spa condos, a conference center, office buildings, medical condos, an indoor/outdoor sports complex, a hotel or an equestrian school.

Other options for the site included expanding the DPW area for its future needs or increasing the town's use of the property for a fire station, a waste disposal site or a school building.

Swartz said the committee's recommendations will not be tailored to any specific proposal by a potential buyer. The New England Academy, a special needs high school, has expressed interest in leasing or buying the Iron Rail building and surrounding land to renovate the building and the Boy Scout Barn and construct a second two-story building.

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