Need lots of bedrooms?
Morristown officials think they have just the place for you.
A former group home at 38 Headley Road goes on the auction block on April 5, 2018.
It’s the town’s third attempt to sell the six-bedroom ranch-style house, which has been vacant since the Devereux Foundation left in 2015 after scores of neighbor complaints about poor supervision, maintenance issues and wandering youths. The town acquired the half-acre property for $505,000 in 2016.
The town got no bids during its first two tries. So officials are bringing in a specialty firm, Max Spann R.E. & Auction Co., for the auction.
On Tuesday, the town council unanimously approved the administration’s choice–after some vigorous questioning of Administrator Jillian Barrick.
Councilmen Stefan Armington and Robert Iannaccone were curious why no minimum bid was set. Iannaccone also inquired why a local realtor wasn’t used, and Councilwoman Alison Deeb suggested a Morris County Sheriff’s sale, to save paying an 8 percent commission to the auctioneer.
“Sheriff sales are typically fire sales and you don’t maximize the value there,” said Barrick, noting the town hopes to “get as much as we possibly can for the property.”
Choosing a local realtor would pose potential conflicts, and besides, an auction is required by law, Barrick said. Public auctions are a niche market, and Max Spann has an extensive reach and strong reputation, the administrator said.
“Every client I spoke to spoke very highly of the firm and would hire them again,” Barrick said. The firm advised that a better price was more likely without a bidding minimum, she said.
Deeb, whose Fourth Ward includes Headley Road, asked to delay the vote until residents could be consulted. They are wary of another group home coming in, and want to ensure it reverts to a single-family residence, she said. The place needs some work, she added.
“I don’t want to make a decision in a vacuum,” Deeb said.
“The administration has a similar concern,” Barrick said. “We would like to see that property brought back on the tax rolls, and add to that beautiful neighborhood.
“I believe by maximizing the marketability of that property we have the best chance of getting the right buyer who will put that home back in its glory, if you will.”
Mayor Tim Dougherty urged the council to go with Spann.
“I strongly recommend council go down this road and get this house sold, and this is the way to do it,” he said.
Deeb joined in the 6-0 vote. Councilman Michael Elms was absent. More details about the bidding process will be released soon, Barrick said.
In other business, resident Margret Brady asked the council to consider donating an unused firehouse on Morris Street for use as an arts center.
A controversial proposal for a self-storage facility nearby includes 2,600 square feet for an art studio. Brady suggested the firehouse might be a more appropriate venue.