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Council scales back plans for Ogilvie site Four houses at most: Officials agree removing remnants of plant, building street would be too costly

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If anything is ever built at the former Ogilvie Foods plant site, it will be just a handful of single-family houses.

The Watertown City Council informally agreed Monday night to forgo plans to redevelop the site into a neighborhood of single-family houses along a new street. It would cost too much to remove the remnants of the plant’s foundation to do anything else, council members decided.

They agreed lots for about four houses could be developed and the rest of the 5-acre site transformed into green space. Two houses would face California Avenue and two would be on North Pleasant Street.

But council members did not decide whether the city should sell the lots and allow developers to build on them.

Thousand Islands Area Habitat for Humanity also has expressed interest in building homes on the four lots. “If we do not sell them, then Habitat could come in,” Councilwoman Roxanne M. Burns said.

City officials projected it would cost $800,000 to $900,000 to construct a street and complete other infrastructure if the site were fully developed. And they determined there was more foundation debris at the site than they had anticipated; remnants of the plant’s foundation would have to be removed before a street and houses could be built.

The city will use a $200,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant to clean up soil contamination, cement foundation slabs and other debris from the old food plant. The city also set aside $400,000 in its capital projects budget for the job.

The city’s Parks and Recreation Department will look at how a park or playground could fit into its plans, said Kenneth A. Mix, the city’s planning and community development coordinator.

The city has been talking about redeveloping the site for about 10 years. Neighbors have called the site an eyesore; they have supported turning it into residential properties.

Two years ago, Neighbors of Watertown Inc. considered seeking state money to turn the site into a subdivision with 19 homes, a road and a quarter-acre park. Those plans died after state funding ran dry.

In other action, the council informally agreed to establish a $50 daily fee for vendors to sell their wares in city parks. Councilman Joseph M. Butler was opposed, saying it might be too exorbitant for someone selling hot dogs at a softball tournament.

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