WILTON — The Board of Selectpersons has approved the sale of a former tannery to two local business owners who plan to redevelop the property.

The town has spent years on an extensive environmental cleanup of the tannery at 822 U.S. Route 2 after taking it for unpaid taxes in 2010.

Four members of the board voted unanimously on Tuesday to accept a proposal from brothers James Black, who owns Black Acres Firewood, and John Black, who owns Rocky Hill landscaping, both in Wilton, to purchase the 15-acre property with a 62,000-square-foot building for $1. John Black is also a selectperson. He recused himself from the board’s vote and the executive session preceding it. The sale has not been finalized.

Last November, the town issued a request for proposals on the property. When it received no response, selectmen reissued the RFP, and the Blacks submitted the only proposal by the deadline last Friday.

In an interview Wednesday, John Black said he had been considering the property for several years, particularly as a site to expand storage for his landscaping business.

As a Wilton native, he was also tired of seeing the building standing vacant, Black said.

“I grew up here, two miles from that place,” Black said. “It’s like a lot of buildings in rural Maine. It’s just never going to get used, and I have the means to renovate it and create jobs, create business.”

A three-phase renovation project costing as much as $500,000 is planned, according to the Blacks’ proposal.

In the first phase, which could take as long as a year, the new owners plan to demolish the building’s structurally unsafe central section and identify sections of the building that can be restored for bulk storage.

In the second phase, estimated to last up to three years, the restored parts of the building are to be used to store firewood and compost. The owners intend to move a firewood processor into the site that will split an estimated 300 cords of fuel wood per year and establish a vermicomposting — a process that uses earthworms — facility on the site.

The second phase also would feature new construction and renovation for remaining usable parts of the facility, which will include space at the front of the building for a manufacturing center and parts store for Farmington-based Nichols Trailers.

A third phase, which is expected to take up to 10 years, would include developing the property for new businesses and constructing self-storage units. The property is designated as part of a Tax Increment Financing district and a Pine Tree Zone, which offer financial incentives for eligible businesses, according to the town’s request for proposal.

On Wednesday, John Black said he didn’t think his position as a selectman was in conflict with the purchase. Considering that the town received only one proposal after six months, he thought it was appropriate to put in a bid, Black said.

“Plenty of people had plenty of time to buy the property,” he said.

Board of Selectmen Chairman Scott Taylor said other parties were interested in the tannery, but restrictions such as prohibitions on removing concrete and digging at the site made it unattractive to commercial developers.

“That really handcuffed developers,” Taylor said.

The town received $350,000 in Brownfields funds to complete the cleanup, which included covering remnant tannery byproducts last year.

According to Town Manager Rhonda Irish, the town will have a final walk-through on the site with its environmental consultants on Thursday before starting paperwork to finalize the cleanup process. The town is planning a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the site for May 20.

The buildings on the site are virtually worthless, but the land is valued at $120,000, according to Taylor. Even though selectmen would have liked to get more money for the property, they had to consider the only proposal that came in, he said.

“We really tried to get the best bang for our buck, and getting it for the tax revenue is the best we’re going to get,” Taylor said.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire


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