Benson's land sale still not complete, but talks ongoing

HUDSON – In theory, a meeting set for this week in Concord could be one of the final steps in the town’s takeover of the old Benson’s Wild Animal Farm. In reality, who knows?

Selectmen and New Hampshire Department of Transportation officials are set to meet in Concord on Thursday to continue negotiations over the purchase terms of the 165-acre former zoo and amusement park.

The two sides have talked for six years about the terms of the land sale. Town officials have criticized the state for repeatedly delaying the sale when the town remains poised to take it.

In July, the selectmen agreed to terms of a deed that would see them buy the land for $188,000, the price agreed to in 2002.

Since then, how to renovate and maintain historical structures on the property, particularly the roughly 200-year-old Hazelton barn, has been a major obstacle.

Town Administrator Steve Malizia said now that the selectmen have agreed to the state’s terms for historic preservation, he hopes the state will be ready to go through with the sale.

“In reality I don’t know what they’re going to do. They’re the New Hampshire Department of Transportation,” Malizia said.

Benson’s Wild Animal Farm was once a zoo that featured exotic animals, displays, games and restaurants.

It closed in 1987. Most of the site is zoned general, meaning all types of residential buildings, except multifamily developments, could be built there.

The town has set aside $479,000 in the last six years to buy the property and restore walking trails on the site.

The town assessor’s office values the property at $3.6 million.

The front of the property facing Route 111 is in the town’s business zone.