The last of nine train stations in town may have reached the end of the line. The fate of the historic station, which was damaged in a fire in April, hinged $750,000 in state funding that would allow the town to move the station and restore it. Now, however, town officials have learned that the money is not coming this year. The station has been sitting for years on the Townsend Energy property on Cherry Street, and the property owner says if the town does not move it off, it will eventually be torn down to make room for a garage for fuel trucks. “It hasn’t been for a lack of folks in town trying to find a location, trying to find funding,” said Jim Townsend, CEO of the family-owned business, about efforts that date back about 15 years to find a way to donate the structure to the town to save it. “We are getting toward the point in time a decision has to be made,”. Townsend filed for a demolition permit from the building inspector in May. The filing triggered a process under the town’s demolition delay bylaw designed to give preservationists and historic building owners more time to find a way to save structures. Karen Nelson, the town’s director of Planning and Human Services, said the next step will be a meeting before the Preservation Commission, which must decide whether the station is “historically significant” and “worthy of preservation.” If so, the commission can impose a six-month demolition delay. The Preservation Commission is scheduled to meet Tuesday, Aug. 22, at 7 p.m. in Town Hall. “We have been trying to give the building to the town for many years,” said Townsend, who expects the Preservation Commission to impose the six-month delay. The need to demolish it is not urgent, he added. Townsend said his company would be flexible if a solution takes somewhat longer than six months. But eventually, he wants to use the space occupied by the station to construct a garage for his trucks to get them out of sight of neighbors, and get them out of the elements.
No state money
Last year’s Town Meeting had approved moving the station to the Hobart Street municipal parking lot, but that was contingent on the town receiving state funding — and that’s not happening. “It’s one thing to get the language in, it’s another thing to get the bond authorization,” said state Sen. Joan Lovely, D-Salem, who said the bond bill covers a lot of projects across the commonwealth. The bond bill allows state agencies to spend money on projects, but does not require that any particular project be funded. “They absolutely want to see the building preserved and restored,” Lovely said, noting that Leo Roy, commissioner of the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, even paid a visit to Danvers to see the station. However, “there is a tremendous amount of need across the commonwealth for state properties,” she said. The Danvers station is not a state property and is privately owned.
“We are disappointed,” Lovely said, “but we can’t ask him (Townsend) to continue to steward it,” she said. Lovely said this may be an opportunity for a private entity to find a way to take ownership of the station and move it elsewhere.“It appears we have hit a stone wall,” said Preservation Commission member Sandra Lane, who said the commission and others have done everything they could to save the station. “Townsend could not have been nicer,” Lane said of his dealings with the town and preservationists about what to do with the station. Lane said preservationists who have reached out to other communities seeking alternatives have been told the town needs to adopt the Community Preservation Act, which would put a small surcharge on property taxes to pay for historic preservation projects and other specified needs. But town voters rejected the CPA in November. Townsend Energy purchased the Cherry Street property where the station sits in 2001. The station sits at the back of the property, abutting the rail trail. The Danvers Plains or the East Plains station is the last of nine that used to dot Danvers. The station stood on Essex Street before it was moved to Cherry Street in 1923. A citizen’s initiative in 2006 to move the station to a nearby bank parking lot on Essex Street fell through