By a split vote from an undersized board, selectmen on May 29 named Douglas A. King Builders Inc. of North Easton to redevelop the former fire station/Keating funeral home property overlooking the Town Common.
The 2-1 vote, with selectmen David Feldman and Chris Mitchell supporting the King proposal and newcomer Edward O’Leary voting against, followed a series of procedural maneuvers in a special Wednesday night session.
All three board members described the decision as a difficult one, saying that each of three development scenarios for the downtown property exhibited both strengths and weaknesses.
“This decision does not come lightly,” Feldman said before the tally was taken. “You might not agree with the decision, but what I am going to recommend is what I feel is in the best interests of the town. I want to be crystal clear on that.”
The King plan was one of three submitted last February in response to a request for proposals issued by the town that envisions a mixed-use project marrying residential and retail units and a restaurant/pub.
Also seeking to redevelop the town-owned property were Gibson Corner Realty Trust of Foxboro and MPZ Development LLC of Milton/Traggorth Companies LLC of Boston. Of the three applicants, King Builders bid $405,000, MPZ Development bid $400,000 and Gibson Corner Realty $250,000.
The King plan was favored in a comparative ranking by members of the town Eeconomic development committee, who said the King proposal best conformed to the town’s vision for the site.
It combines a 4,600-square-foot brewpub operated by Shovel Town Brewery of Easton and 19 residential units on the site.
Four of these units, along with the brewpub, will be situated in the existing firehouse building, which will be preserved, and 15 more in a separate three-story apartment building with below-grade parking located on the funeral home footprint.
The bid process had been on hold since March, when potential conflicts of interest involving three of five selectmen left the board without a voting quorum — a problem later rectified with O’Leary assuming a seat on the board.
Over the ensuing weeks, opposition to the King proposal had grown among neighboring property owners, mostly focused on the issue of density. That opposition culminated at Tuesday night’s regularly scheduled board meeting, when residents presented selectmen with a petition bearing some 350 signatures asking that the bid be awarded to Gibson Corner Realty.
The Gibson plan featured just five one-bedroom apartments accompanying a 3,890-square foot restaurant, all located within the existing firehouse. The remainder of the half-acre site would have been dedicated to surface parking.
In order for the project to move forward, selectmen must now issue a municipal conversion permit for the property.
Input from the town’s design review board and a special permit from the planning board also will be required, as well as routine permitting through the town building department.
“We’re all ready to move onto the next phase,” said Selectman Chris Mitchell.