Town warns house preservation “not a done deal”

Above: Demonstrators will be celebrating in front of this historic home this evening. But it will take more than a supportive honk to see preservation of the home through. (contributed photo)

Opponents to demolition of the Garfield (a.k.a. Burnett) House are celebrating news that the sale didn’t go through last week.  But Southborough’s Town Planner warns that preservation of the house “is not a done deal.”

Last week, Bridget Brady rallied her friends and the community to protest the demolition of the historic home. The protest garnered attention from local news station and newspapers. Tuesday, the current homeowners announced their refusal to sell the home last week in hopes of preserving the estate.

The teens plan to gather in front of the house tonight in celebration and support of that effort, or drive by and honk. (Click here for her letter to the editor/invitation.) Brady’s letter to the editor acknowledged there is work to be done. She hopes those that have supported the cause to date will help “see it through to the finish.”

I followed up with Town Planner, Jennifer Burney, for clarification on the status of preserving the home. Recent emails and comments have claimed that septic issues stopped the sale.  She believes the circulating rumors are inaccurate.

According to Burney, developer Bob Moss successfully proved to the Board of Health that he could install 4 septic systems while meeting setback requirements. His next step is getting BOH approvoal to use the existing septic as a shared system. And she believes Moss is still very interested in pursuing the project. 

Burney confirmed Jon Deli Priscoli’s statement that he put a halt to the sale because he was upset about the planned demolition. When Moss failed to meet a condition of the purchase & sale agreement, Deli Priscoli didn’t grant an extension.

Burney says that Deli Priscoli wants to work with the town. But she warns there is still a lot of work to do:

I would urge people not to to get too comfortable because this is not settled. Mr. Deli is willing to try and work out something and that is what we are discussing but this is not over.

She is supportive of recent talk and comments about individuals starting a foundation to collect donations. She suggested the effort could allow some kind of partnership.

So, where does the town go from here?

The Board of Selectmen will be meeting to discuss the issue tonight. The meeting is a closed executive session. This is apparently acceptable practice when the chair decides that discussion of property value may have “a detrimental effect on [the board’s] negotiation position.”

In addition, two more town meetings have popped up this week. On Friday morning, the Planning Board will meet to publicly discuss Moss’ ANR application for the estate.

Tonight, the Open Space Preservation Commission will be meeting tonight at the South Union Building, 21 Highland Street. The agenda includes “priority parcels” and the Community Preservation Committee’s 5 year plan. In comments on this blog, some readers posited that Community Preservation Act funds were intended for issues like saving the estate. So, this item may come up for discussion.

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Doreen A
9 years ago

I continue to follow this issue on the blog and in the papers. At this point I am more perplexed now than ever. I understand people consider this property to have great historical value. I don’t disagree. However, do the people in favor of the preservation of this piece of PRIVATE property think that money grows on trees?

Our municipality is dealing with so many costly budgetary issues that directly effect our property taxes. Main Street, a new public safety facility, issues with closing the budget gap at the transfer station, continued issues with DPW structure and personnel, school projects, etc. are all up for budget debate and consideration year after year. Eventually, we will be asked to pony up money for the roads and buildings. It all gets bonded and directly increases our taxes. I say, fine to these things, because they directly effect our lives. They are services this town should and has to provide, and services we all use. Adding a piece of private property that currently has no function is not a necessity nor something the people of this town can use.

Now the BOS is meeting behind closed doors to discuss this private property. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but having the Town buy this property is simply ridiculous and unrealistic. It’s not a good buy, period. This building is in desperate need of repair (if repair is even feasible), and there is no value to the town. I know I’m going to get slammed here, but the “historical value” of this property doesn’t outweigh the costs associated with purchasing, restoring, and maintaining this large estate. This is a private piece of property with property tax value, and it should stay that way. I just don’t know what people are thinking.

What is the town going to do with this property? I’ve heard this compared to Newport Mansions, White Cliffs, Bed and Breakfasts. Do you truly believe the Town of Southborough should be in the tourism, party planning, and resort business? Think about this for a minute. I think these ideas are fabulous for a PRIVATE owner, not the Town.

Before we all get carried away, I ask those who truly want preservation to seriously see the other side of the coin. I’m not the only one that feels this way in this town. While we live in a “wealthy community,” we are not all wealthy. Some of us live in modest homes and the tax dollars we pay are a good chunk of our annual income. Please don’t tell me to move either. I’m happy with my small house on the south side of town. I’m generally happy with the services we get in town for our tax dollars too. That’s why I continue to live here after 58 years, and my family goes back nearly 100 years.

I simply ask you to please truly consider what you’re proposing if the town gets involved in purchasing this private home.


Tim Martel
9 years ago
Reply to  Doreen A


You are not alone in your opinion by any means. My guess is that many (if not most) people would agree that the Town probably cannot afford such a purchase at this time without a “difficult choice” as Mr. Hamilton puts it. But please read all the previous comments and you will see that another option is available and is far less costly to the Town.

I feel confident that our leaders are considering all alternatives and am very pleased that the BOS has chosen to meet to discuss this issue with such immediacy.


9 years ago

I definitely agree with Doreen. No question about it.

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