BRATTLEBORO -- The Selectboard is going to be asked to discharge the $150,000 lien it has on the Robert H. Gibson River Garden to help Strolling of the Heifers move ahead with its planned purchase of the Main Street property.
Strolling of the Heifers wants to buy the River Garden from Building a Better Brattleboro, the non-profit downtown organization that purchased and helped develop the River Garden in 1999.
The Legislature approved $150,000 that year to help BABB buy the River Garden and the money flowed through the town, which has had a lien on the property ever since.
Now Strolling of the Heifers is trying to get a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan for the purchase but that $150,000 lien is standing in the way.
The Selectboard Tuesday night is going to be asked to formally vote to discharge the lien so Strolling of the Heifers can complete the purchase.
The Legislature during the last session voted to repeal any repayment stipulation originating from the original 1999 appropriation, but interim Town Manager Patrick Moreland said the lien between the town and BABB is still in place.
Moreland said the board will be asked to relieve that lien Tuesday night.
"There has been a lot of discussion about this and the board needs to consider if it is in the best interest of the town to maintain this lien," Moreland said. "The Legislature repealed the section that says Brattleboro needs to repay the money, but that does not discharge the lien between the town and BABB."
Building a Better Brattleboro announced earlier this year that it would be selling the River Garden after saying that it had been losing money every year managing the public property.
BABB held a public process to find a new owner and three organizations made a bid to purchase it from BABB.
In July BABB announced that Strolling of the Heifers had been chosen as the next owner of the River Garden.
When the state agreed to provide the $150,000 to help BABB purchase the property at 153 Main St., the lien said that if BABB ever sold the property the town would be entitled to receive that money back.
As far as the state is concerned the money does not have to be paid back, but as far as USDA is concerned the town still maintains the lien.
Morleand said the lien is affecting the Strolling of the Heifer's loan-to-value percentage on the USDA mortgage and would likely lead to a negative decision for the loan application.
"If the board agrees to this there would no longer be a legal agreement between ourselves and BABB," said Moreland. "It will be up to the board to decide if they choose to do that, or not."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. You can follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer