Published November 19. 2012 4:00AM
Salem - A town meeting is scheduled for later this month for residents to discuss whether the town should pay $450,000 to acquire 14.5 acres of land in the center of town.
The land is where the former Zemko Sawmill property was located. Its acquisition would allow for the development of a new town center and possibly new businesses, according to town officials. The land sits between the town-owned Salem Green Cemetery and the Salem School on Route 85.
"We're looking for a desirable, walkable town area. This fits into that idea," First Selectman Kevin Lyden said. "We could even consider a business or something like that in the future depending on what Planning and Zoning allows."
The town meeting is set for Nov. 28 at the Salem School. The meeting will then be adjourned to a referendum for voters to make a final decision.
Karen Buckley, chairwoman of the Planning and Zoning Commission, gave a presentation last week to the Board of Selectmen on a new set of regulations the commission has worked on that would place certain restrictions on the town's so-called village center zone.
The regulations would pertain to any new projects on the land the town is considering. While yet to be approved, they are designed to help preserve historical aspects of the area.
Buckley reported the town's plan of conservation and development in 2002 underscored residents' wishes to see a more developed town center. The plan was updated this year and again reiterated the hope the town center would be developed.
Lyden said the former Zemko property has a 9,600-square-foot building the town could use in part to store its public works vehicles.
The acquisition would also provide the town with a sensible link to land it already owns. For instance, the town could include another leg of the proposed Harris Brook Multipurpose Trail, which is slated to run from Music Vale Road to the Round Hill Road recreation complex.
Lyden said the town has approximately $106,000 in local capital improvement money from the state that could be used toward the land purchase. The former property owners also owe about $70,000 in property taxes, he said.
The land's exact address is 228 and 230 Hartford Road. Lyden said he plans to prepare a PowerPoint presentation on the proposed purchase and place it on the town's website in advance of the Town Meeting.
"People want a little more business in town," Lyden said. "They want it to look like a village, which our small town should have."