Discussion about whether to use of a real estate agent to assist the town with open space acquisitions.
There have been several inquiries in the past few months about whether the town should use a real estate agent for open space acquisitions. Our consultant, Bob Shafto, is not a licensed real estate agent and provides some assistance to the Town Manager in the acqusition of real estate but the Town Manager is the primary negotiator. We recently requested an opinion from the town attorney to determine whether the current practice is appropriate from a legal perspective. His opinion is attached.
According to the town attorney, the town is free to negotiate any property transaction without an agent so long as the negotiations are conducted by an employee. Bob Shafto is not an employee and although he is a consultant for the town, he does not hold a real estate license so he is prohibited from assisting the town in negotiations. There are two Open Space Acqusition Subcommittee members with real estate licences and we rely on their expertize for some guidance. There are several options that the town may want to consider.
1. Require Bob Shafto to acquire his real estate license. Mr. Shafto has indicated that he is not interested in this approach.
2. Hire an agent to assist the town where an agent is necessary. This service should be on an hourly basis rather than a commission. This would result in less funding available for Mr. Shafto's services.
3. Change the status of Bob Shafto to an employee which will exempt the need for a real estate license.
4. Ask the Attorney General's office for a ruling on on the current practice of using Bob Shafto's assistance. (See attached opinion from the town attorney regarding this option.)
5. Submit legislation to amend current law, which could have the effect of exempting the requirement to use a licensed real estate agent for property transactions associated with public open space acquisition.
Regardless of the approach, we need to discuss whether there is value in the services of a real estate agent. An experienced real estate agent, specializing in public open space acquisition could be beneficial. The down side is that the additional expense is money that can not be used for the actual acquisition of property or less funding available to pay for the services of an open space ombudsman. We are looking for Town Council guidance on this matter before we pursue any of the options listed above.