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Developer interested in building houses on Sewall’s Island

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Donald W. Rutherford has already found a developer who is interested in building housing on Sewall’s Island.

Mr. Rutherford, CEO of the Watertown Local Development Corp., said he met recently with the unidentified developer who has expressed “some preliminary” interest in developing a portion of the island.

“There’s still a lot to be worked out yet,” he said.

WLDC officials said they believe developers would like the island because of its views of the Black River, comparing its beauty to the Adirondack Mountains.

The WLDC, also known as the Watertown Trust, wants an option for the city-owned island so it can market it to developers. Mr. Rutherford does not plan to talk with other developers unless a deal cannot be worked out with this one, he said.

On Monday, the Watertown City Council informally agreed to give the trust an option on the property. City Manager Mary M. Corriveau said Thursday that some details still have to be worked out between the parties.

The city plans to retain some of the island for other development and possibly create a park and hiking trail on it.

The WLDC has been interested in acquiring the island since a project to remove contaminated soil was completed last year.

About 10 acres could be developed for condominiums or rental housing. The city owns 18.6 acres of the 28.7-acre island property.

The city wants to maintain a 50-foot strip around a part of the island’s shore that could be used for potential water-related commercial businesses, such as a restaurant or kayaking business. The city also wants to keep a rail line that runs through it that could be used for hiking trails. Another part of the island would remain green space because it contains mostly sand and silt, making it difficult to build on.

The city took the property because of unpaid back taxes from Black Clawson, which closed its foundry in 1991 and demolished the buildings in 2001.

In 2007, the city received a $561,200 state Department of Environmental Conservation grant and $200,000 in federal Environmental Protection Agency funding to help rid the island of contaminated soil.

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