During the most recent Board of Selectmen meeting, Selectman Nick Williams questioned New Canaan’s highest elected official regarding fees collected when the town buys or sells real property.
Williams told First Selectman Moynihan during the Board’s June 27 meeting that he’s had several Realtors come to him asking how they could participate in the town’s real estate deals.
“This is not coming from me,” Williams said during the meeting, held at Town Hall and via videoconference. “This is coming from real estate brokers.”
Referring to the town attorney’s law firm, Moynihan responded, “I think the advice from Berchem Moses is that we always issue an RFP for town property.”
An RFP, or Request for Proposal, is a business document announcing and describing a project, which is released to the public for the purpose of finding the best price.
Williams brought up the topic during a section of the meeting devoted to general matters before the town. He cited the town’s purchase of 220 Elm St. for $6.1 million in 2022, and two subsequent sales of different parts of the building for about $2.5 million and $1.7 million, according to tax records.
When he asked Moynihan how he came up with the buyers of the second floor, Moynihan responded, “We negotiated with nine purchasers to buy the second floor.”
“It was just you?” Williams asked. “There was no other broker involved?”
Referring to a local property owner, Moynihan responded, “Don Corbo’s in town. He was initially representing Bankwell. The transaction was to buy the building with an investor, and we ultimately found the ninth investor because of the timing.”
Williams continued questioning Moynihan by asking about Corbo’s involvement in the sale.
“He came to you, and said he had buyers?” Williams asked. “Real estate agents in New Canaan are just saying how do we get involved with the town, if the town is in the process of purchasing or buying and selling?”
According to Moynihan, the sale of a town-owned property will always be handled via RFP.
“Berchem Moses said we always have to expose it to the market, we can’t choose a broker to sell a property,” he said.
Williams asked Moynihan about the town’s recent purchase of a house on Grove Street for approximately $1 million.
The first selectman responded, “The Board of Finance is going to discuss it. We’ve had other opportunities in connection with our affordable housing.”
Williams then asked Moynihan if a broker was involved in that purchase.
“There was a listing broker for the seller,” Moynihan said.
When asked about whether a broker had handled the purchase on the buy side, Moynihan said, “There was nobody on the buy side that was paid. Again, Mr. Corbo is a resident in town, he’s a commercial resident—”
Williams interjected, saying, “This isn’t a particular thing with Mr. Corbo, I’m being asked about process.”
Moynihan responded by saying that real estate is “very opportunistic.”
“If someone comes to you with an idea on the buy side, that’s what’s happened,” Moynihan said.
Williams said he wasn’t focused on whether the town was making good decisions in its acquisitions and sales.
“It’s more about process in terms of how that gets accomplished and how intermediaries, if any, are involved, and are compensated, that’s all,” he said.
Moynihan responded by stating that when purchasing property, the commission would be split between the buyer and seller.
“This is a pretty one-off process,” Moynihan said. “When we’re selling, we will clearly go to the market with an RFP–were not going to choose a broker, and on the other hand when we’re looking to do things on the buy side, there are people like John Engel, who’s a Realtor in town, who can be helpful in approaching people.”