Burnett House owner gives interview and estate tour; looking for public to make feelings known on November 18

Above: Video of Southborough Access Media‘s Terry Newman interviewing Jon Delli Priscoli.

In further effort to clarify where things stand with the historic Burnett House, Jon Delli Priscoli granted an interview to Southborough Access Media.

The owner talked about his history with the property and recounted his efforts over the last four months to work with the Town. He stated:

I think the Town has been wonderful to work with. . .

I found everyone to be very genuine and willing to work to try to find solutions. But this is not up to them. And it’s not up to me.

It’s really up to everybody and everybody has a voice in this. And I’m hoping people make their feelings known on the 18th. And if they want to move forward, I’m a willing partner, and if they don’t then we’ll see where it goes from there.

In an apparent effort to help the community make an informed decision, Delli Priscoli shared his ambitions, relevant experience, and challenges related to the project.

During the interview, Delli Priscoli explained some of his background in preservation. (That includes is role as one of the oldest Trustees at Wayside Inn and his personal efforts restoring his home in Carver.) He also talked about the nature of preservation work and what would be involved in restoring the house.

The interview includes a tour of the big Stone House. Along the way he pointed out some of its wonderful features, his renovation plans, and repair issues. He estimated, “There’s probably, a good year and a half’s work for five men, just on the [interior] paint stripping.”

In contrast to developer Robert Moss’ characterization of the house as a “white elephant”, Delli Priscoli said it has “good bones”. He furthered, “This house could be very, very thoughtfully and carefully restored, at great expense.”

He viewed the proposed private/public partnership as a good thing for the Town. For more details, watch the above video (which you can also access directly through You Tube).

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9 years ago

I have no doubt that Mr. Priscoli is sincere when he voices his love for old properties. And, I have no reason to doubt his competency in historical restoration. I could even be enticed by his offer if this was a non-profit undertaking. But, the reality is that he is asking for $1.3 million taxpayer dollars to fund his personal residence. There is something inherently wrong with that. It’s confusing that his priorities have changed, but they won’t change if he can secure a gift of $1.3 million. Is he focusing all his attention on Bringing Thomas the Tank Engine to America, or will he find time for the House if the price is right? The video was very well done, and it would be great PR for a Foundation. It falls flat when you realize it is for personal gain.

9 years ago
Reply to  JMO

Not sure why you are being so hard on him for this. The most value in that property is to tear everything down and build four new houses. The town and it’s citizens have asked him to preserve the house at significant financial loss to himself. What is wrong with him asking the town to chip in to cover a portion of that loss?

If you don’t think the town should contribute, that’s fine, but the end result there is most likely that the house gets torn down.

Just Curious
9 years ago
Reply to  Southville

No taxpayer funds should be provided to Mr. Priscoli to help pay for the cost to renovate his home. Not one penny.

Now if the town wants to buy it from him, then that is a different issue altogether, but I still oppose it.

It is a nice looking house and I would be sad to see it go. But realistically, will Southborough be any different if 4 homes are built on that lot. Really? It is not like someone will put a WalMart there.

I would much rather see that $1.3 million be spent on a new senior center or to expand the library or help pay fr the new police station.

choo choo
9 years ago

Mr. Delli Priscoli is going to get a “personal gain” regardless. Either (A) he gets a discounted $1.3 million from the Town and the house not only stays up forever but is restored, or (B) he gets upwards of $2 million from a developer who will tear the house down and build 4 new ones. Those are the two scenarios the Town must choose between, period. His status as a private individual is irrelevant.

Gary D.
9 years ago

Great work S.A.M., very interesting. Did anyone else notice that in the receiving room there were little black plastic clips holding up the shelves? So much for authentic restoration…

Rebecca Deans-Rowe
9 years ago
Reply to  Gary D.

Gary, in fairness to the owner, he hasn’t actually begun any restoration work yet. I am sure plastic clips will not be included in his plan.

Frank Crowell
9 years ago

Glad this interview and tour was done – very nice job. Mr. Priscoli obviously knows what he talking about. All this time I thought he owned a cargo rail line not a future “Thomas the Train” park – did I hear that right?

Not to tip my hand here, but how much for one of those marble fireplaces? I have the perfect spot for one maybe two.

Our ability as a town to preserve this property was pre-determined by prior preservations done and overbuilding new schools. When the wreaking ball arrives send a picture to the school committees.

Now if the town were to go on a selling spree – my opinion may change.

Al Hamilton
9 years ago
Reply to  Frank Crowell

Amen, If the town wants to sell Fayville Hall, the Arts Center, and Station 2. Thereby trading 3 rotting buildings for 1 I would vote yes.

I believe that a significant portion of the monies in the CPA account are, at least informally, tied up for use in paying off the “Chestnut Hill Bond”. I will check

The reality is that, for better and worse, our Town Government is not designed for quick decisions of this sort. Glacial would be a better description. At the end of the process there will have to be a Town Meeting. It may well involve either a borrowing or real estate transaction. Both require 2/3 vote I believe.

I know that there is a small, influential cadre of folks in town that are more than willing to increase your taxes and mine to resist all forms of change. The bottom line here is that it is sheer folly to use our CPA funds to preserve a private residence. At least with the Chestnut Hill transaction, which I voted for, we get access to the property and at some future date we could probably use that property for some public purpose at modest cost.

Al Hamilton
9 years ago

Last summer I contacted the Town Accountant about the sums available in the CPA accounts and the Status of the Chestnut Hill Bond

As you recall, the Chestnut Hill Bond was sold to Town Meeting on the basis that we would use CPA funds to pay a significant portion of the bond. The Bond matures in 2 years (11/16) and had a balance in July of $1,130,000. Of that, the plan is to pay $588,000 out of CPA Funds.

There was about $700,000 of monies in the CPA funds that could be used for preservation of the Garfield House. The fund has an income of about $350,000 (the state only contributes about 19% at this point). Of that $350,000 90% could be used for the house assuming it met open space and historic preservation goals. So that would be $315,000/yr.

If you look at the next 2 years, with a $700k balance, and $630,000 of qualified income and $588,000 of bond commitment that leaves no more that $742,000 that could be applied to the Garfield preservation. That is about 1/2 of what seems to be needed.

The bottom line is that CPA funds cant save the Garfield House unless we change how we are funding the Chestnut Hill Bond.

Any of the other options I can think of require a borrowing (2/3 vote + majority at the polls) or a Prop 2.5 override.

This data is a little old and any analysis that is more current would be welcome.

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