Published July 07. 2014 9:32PM Updated July 08. 2014 12:27AM
New London — The City Council on Monday night unanimously rejected a New Haven businessman’s bid to purchase the historic Lighthouse Inn.
All seven city councilors voted against selling the property to sole bidder Anthony D. Acri III, who offered $100,000 — far short of the $500,000 minimum set by the city at the start of the bidding process — for the historic Guthrie Place inn.
“I’m disappointed. I really don’t have any thoughts right now,” said Acri, who attended Monday’s meeting with members of his development team. “I have been personally involved and our desire has been to get the historic Lighthouse Inn back up and running.”
Acri said he would not be interested in purchasing just the land the inn sits on and would not pursue the property for any business other than a resort.
Councilors said they were apprehensive about accepting a bid that did not meet the minimum bid requirement established by the city.
“I’m very concerned ... regarding the process and I think that the public perception, which I think is critical, is that the process has been compromised,” Councilor Martin T. Olsen said. “In the public domain we really need to be exceptionally careful with how we handle this kind of stuff and it would be more appropriate to re-bid this to give all bidders the same opportunity that may not have been afforded this go-around.”
Acri, when questioned last month by the City Council’s Economic Development Committee, said he followed the process of submitting questions and getting answers from the city. All qualified bidders received a response from the city that any and all bids would be documented and reviewed, though the council reserved the right to reject any bid under $500,000.
Though it rejected Acri’s bid, the council on Monday night voted to refer the sale of the inn, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, to the Planning and Zoning Commission. The commission will report back to the council about whether it approves or disapproves of the sale of the city-owned property, which is required under state law.
The council also scheduled a public hearing on the sale of Lighthouse Inn for 6 p.m. on July 28 in Council Chambers so it can hear from residents who live near the inn and other citizens as to what the fate of the property should be.
Last month, Acri gave a public presentation of his plans to restore the inn to its former glory by updating it and making it a more modern facility without sacrificing the historic charm of the building.
Acri said he would have renovated the first floor of the inn — including the kitchen, restaurant and bar — and at least one section of hotel rooms within 180 days of the sale of the property.
He also noted that the 1902 inn, which has been vacant since 2008, would need substantial construction work — roughly $2 million worth, he estimated — before it could be opened, including black mold abatement and roof repairs.