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LAKEVILLE, MA-The 72 acres that used to be the grounds for the former Lakeville Hospital have not been in use for nearly 10 years, but its ideal location near Route 495 and the MBTA station has town officials envisioning a host of possibilities for the site.

Most recently, a re-use plan has been developed that would fill the site with commercial space and the town was gearing up to market the property. That is why Rita Garbitt, the town’s administrator was so surprised when she got a call from a clean elections candidates about three weeks ago telling her that the property was being put up for auction to fund a clean-elections campaign.

Garbitt tells GlobeSt.com that a week later she got a letter from the state attorney general’s office telling her that its “possible [the land] will be seized and auctioned off this July.” When Garbitt checked the auctioneer’s website, the property was listed there.

Garbitt says that when the hospital closed down in 1992 a health care facility was interested in the site but that fell through. A few years ago, the state’s Department of Capital and Assets Management sent out a request for proposals to develop the site but while there were 60 inquiries no one ended up bidding because the hospital buildings had fallen into disrepair. Garbitt says that to renovate the main buildings will cost approximately $27 million and to demolish will cost about six million dollars. Pacheo has recently been trying to get the site to be cleaned up through the Environmental Bond bill.

In 1995, State Senator Marc Pacheco put a bill through the legislature that formed the Lakeville Hospital Re-use Committee, which was comprised of six representatives from Lakeville and six from neighboring Middleborough, which supplies the infrastructure to the site.

The committee came up with a re-use plan that involves commercial space with the goal of increasing the town’s tax base. “It’s a perfect location for businesses,” notes Garbitt.

But the problem is it is not clear if the winner of the auction has to follow the reuse plan’s guidelines. Garbitt points out that the attorney general’s office was not able to give her a straight answer. “It’s unclear if it will govern a foreclosure,” she says. “Senator Pacheco believes it will.” But, she adds, “if we end up having to go to court” over the plan, it could impact the sale. The reuse plan was put up on the auctioneer’s website after Garbitt forwarded it to the attorney general’s office.

“This took us unawares,” says Garbitt. “The state just issued us a license to let us bring developers in and market the property.”

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