Town sells land for $1; developer expects to make $660,000 profit

Taxpayers pepper town officials with questions about monastery development

By Josh Bickford
Posted 5/28/24

A stack of printouts near the entrance to the Barrington High School gymnasium offered taxpayers a list of FAQs (frequently asked questions) pertaining to the Watson Avenue development.  

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Town sells land for $1; developer expects to make $660,000 profit

Taxpayers pepper town officials with questions about monastery development


A stack of printouts near the entrance to the Barrington High School gymnasium offered taxpayers a list of FAQs (frequently asked questions) pertaining to the Watson Avenue development. 

But despite the reading material, residents still had plenty of questions about the project.

During last week’s financial town meeting, residents asked if the age-restricted cottages could be offered to Barrington residents first, and then later to outsiders. They also asked if they would be owner-occupied, how much they would cost, and how much profit the developer stood to earn with the project.

Some residents also wanted to know how much the town would earn for the six single-family lots, how much it would cost to demolish the monastery building, and one asked why Barrington officials did not use the land to build new athletic fields.

A handful of residents praised town officials for their efforts and called the current development plan “the best we can hope for.”

Barrington residents first?

Joan Warren was one of the first to speak at Wednesday night’s FTM. The longtime resident asked if the age-restricted cottages in the pocket neighborhood would be offered to Barrington residents first, and then, if there were openings, pitched to out-of-towners.

The question followed a message from Barrington Town Council President Carl Kustell, who spoke about the empty-nesters who wanted to stay in Barrington but no longer wanted to maintain their larger homes. 

To Warren’s question, Kustell said he could not guarantee that Barrington residents would have priority when it came to the market-rate cottage units. 

The town’s attorney, Andy Teitz, said prioritizing Barrington residents would be discrimination for the market rate units, but the town could provide ranking for the affordable units. 

Resident Janine Wolf said filling the cottages with people from outside of town does not fill the need of Barrington’s empty-nesters.

Wolf requested that the stipulation — that the cottages be available to Barrington residents first — be written into the amendment. That comment yielded a round of applause from the crowd but no action by town officials.


Barrington resident Paul Dulchinos asked if the cottages would be owner-occupied. He said people who own have “skin in the game” and tend to take better care of their property. 

Kustell said that was the intent, but added that he could not guarantee it. 

Ray Clark asked how the town planned to control the 55-and-older age restriction. Teitz said federal law prohibits discrimination based on age, but there is an exception for age-restricted communities. He said at least one of the people living in the age-restricted home must be 55 or older. Teitz said officials could not say that there would not be children living in the cottages. 

Breaking even?

Some taxpayers spoke about the town’s agreement with the property developer, FJS Associates, Ltd., which is based in Middletown.

The town signed a memorandum of understanding with FJS that included a purchase price of $1 for the 1.56-acre parcel. Some residents have questioned the sale price. In the FAQ packet, town officials responded to the query.

“To ensure the project will work financially, the developer’s proposal required that the price of the land be not included,” stated the printout. “When you pursue quality developments that have an affordable option, the affordability requirement makes the revenues for the developer much lower, but it’s expected that the quality of the resulting affordable units will not be any different than the market rate units…”

Barrington resident Mary Alyce Gasbarro said the cost of the market rate units will be about $750,000. That left Tom Rimoshytus wondering how much money the developer would actually make on this deal.

Teitz said FJS estimated the gross sales from the development will total more than $7 million, with a total project cost of about $6.6 million. He said FJS expects to profit more than $660,000 from the project. 

The FAQ also shares details about additional costs for the development that Barrington officials agreed to split with FJS.

Barrington will pay 50 percent of engineering costs for the sewer system and water system for the pocket neighborhood. Barrington will also pay more than half of the engineering and permitting costs associated with CRMC.

Rimoshytus said he planned to vote yes on the Watson Avenue question at the FTM, but only because the town should cut its losses on the property and get out of the housing business.

Single-family lots

William Donohue asked town officials if they had considered selling the entire seven-acre property.

The longtime resident said the community seemed to be arguing over ways to break-even with the development deal. He said the town could just sell off the whole property after setting up certain restrictions and take the proceeds and spend them on Barrington senior citizens. He emphasized the words “Barrington senior citizens.”

Kustell, as he had for much of the meeting the meeting, responded to the comments, stating that Donohue’s message was a prime example of putting fiscal purpose over the other purposes of the property. Kustell said the existing plan was balanced, offering different things for different groups.

Donohue responded: “You’re the stewards of the financial health of our town. We bought a lemon. Make lemonade with it.” 

Jack Siegel questioned some of the messaging from Barrington in regards to the property. He questioned the legitimacy of the figures associated with the ongoing maintenance of the property and existing monastery building. He also reminded residents that the bulk of the annual carrying costs for the property were tied to the debt service for the bond used to buy the land. He said that debt service will not continue on in perpetuity. 

Those in favor

The majority of taxpayers who attended last week’s FTM voted in favor of the development plan. 

Some supporters shared their thoughts during the public comment portion of the meeting — Chris Brady, a longtime member of the town’s housing board, said he believed the plan was fair and balanced. Annelise Conway, a member of the Town Council, said Barrington has too many kids playing on its fields and that the answer to preserving our community is through its seniors. She also spoke about coming up with tax relief ideas for seniors. 

Dave Butera lives near the property and said he believes it is the best plan that the community could hope for. He said the new housing will serve to recoup much of the town’s investment ($3.5 million purchase price) and will also yield new tax revenue. Steve Sheehan thanked all those who played a role in the process and he supported the plan. 

Mary Grenier said she lives across from the monastery property. She said that if the plan is not approved, the neighborhood will be left with a vacant building and annual carrying costs. Grenier said it is very troubling to live across from a vacant building. 

Carla DeStefano, a member of the housing board, supported the plan. She praised the design firm that worked on the proposal. 

What’s next

The town released a tentative schedule for the development of the property:

• By June 30 — Execution of agreement

• July 1-Nov. 30 — Permitting and comprehensive permit application

• End of 2024 — Closing with developer

• First quarter of 2025 — Several single family lots go up for sale; most likely the lots farthest away from monastery

• Second quarter of 2025 — Demolition of monastery

• Third quarter of 2025 — Remaining lots go up for sale

• Second to fourth quarters of 2025 — Pocket neighborhood construction

Note: The FAQ stated that if the town and the developer cannot reach an agreement by the June 30 deadline outlined in the memorandum of understanding, the town can re-issue a request for proposals, seeking a new developer for the pocket neighborhood.

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