THE DAY - Lighthouse Inn set to go to auction

August 12, 2016

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By Greg Smith  Day staff writer

New London - The Lighthouse Inn is set to go to the highest bidder.

The City Council formally voted earlier this month to send the city-owned property at 48 Guthrie Place to an absolute auction with no minimum bid.

The auction is likely to occur in late September or early October.

The council approved hiring Jerome J. Manning & Co. Auctioneers, of Yarmouth Port, Mass., to advertise and conduct the auction.

Mayor Michael Passero, who was on vacation this week, is expected to sign the listing agreement next week. The council is appropriating $10,000 from the Housing and Community Development fund balance to pay for the sale.

The move comes after several failed auctions and most recently an unsuccessful attempt to name a preferred developer whose ideas about rehabilitation of the property were in sync with the council and desires of residents.

The absolute auction would be the first time the property - with 4.2 acres and 54 guest rooms split between the mansion and carriage house - goes to the public without a minimum bid.

Councilor Don Venditto, chairman of the council's Economic Development Committee, said one of the few stipulations at the auction is that there be at least three bidders - a move that may or may not help to avoid a $1 bid.

Tax abatements will not be part of the sale.

At its current assessment, the property would bring in $67,000 annually in tax revenues.

The inn, built in 1902, closed abruptly in 2008. The city became owners in 2013 following a tax auction that failed to elicit a single bid.

A new owner could decide to renovate and reopen the inn, since it is a grandfathered use of the property.

Otherwise, the only other accepted use - without a special permit - is construction of a single-family home, or homes if the property is subdivided.

Demolition of the building might be complicated by the fact it is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Venditto said the weeks leading up to the auction are likely to be used for marketing by the auctioneer company, which has an extensive list of potential buyers.

He said he also expects there will be an open house, possibly two, before the auction.

In a typical auction, the highest bidder will have 45 days to come up with the entire purchase price.

The council voted 5-0 to approve the hiring of the auctioneer at its Aug. 1 meeting.

Councilors John Satti and Anthony Nolan abstained from the vote.

Satti's landscape company has a maintenance contract with the city on the property. It is unclear why Nolan abstained from the vote. He was not immediately available for comment.