SOUTHAMPTON — The Senior Center Building Committee settled on 89 Clark St. as the site of the new senior center. Stakeholder groups liked the central location, the plot had enough acreage and the owners were willing to sell. The committee put the article on the Annual Town Meeting to purchase the land. The money was already in hand. What could go wrong?

Wetlands delineation.

“After the feasibility committee ended, we still had some steps in due diligence,” said Janet Cain, chair of the building committee. “We started doing title searches and surveys [and] a wetlands delineation. Unfortunately, when we got the results of that back it showed us there wasn’t enough contiguous dry land to build a building, a parking lot, a septic system and a driveway.”

Abacus Design and Build, a consulting firm out of Boston, identified six or seven properties in town for the committee to evaluate. The soil and perc test results for the Clark Street property are still posted on the group’s webpage, reminders of a great lost opportunity. Eliminating the Clark Street property was a hard disappointment for committee members — but the search goes on because former resident David Parsons, now deceased, bequeathed $2.5 million to the town for the construction of a new senior center.

The committee did full evaluations on two properties on Clark Street, 79 and 89, and two parcels on College Highway. What was called 0 College Hwy. has been given numbers, 117 through 125, and could be the saving grace for the building committee. This spring, voters at Annual Town Meeting authorized the town to purchase the property that spreads over 52 acres.

“There was also a plan submitted to the Planning Board to build a number of condos … so there wasn’t a lot of room for a senior center at that time,” Cain said after committee members walked the 50 acres. “It’s a very buildable lot. There’s certainly space in there, a decent location. It’s close to some of the senior housing, across the way … We’ll see what happens.”

Engineers hired during the feasibility study, when the group was on an ad hoc status, recommended between 4 and 5 acres for the senior center. That’s less than 10% of the parcel the town will purchase from two members of the Labrie family. The building will occupy about 12,000 square feet, less than a quarter of an acre. Nonetheless, there may not be enough room for a senior center on land originally viewed as a good spot for a public safety complex.

The parcel has been the focus of a lengthy process of evaluation and, more recently, negotiation. The 52-acre property is one of the last plots in town of a substantial size, with enough acreage to accommodate several municipal uses. The land was viewed first as a location for a new public safety complex, which the town direly needs, so town officials approached the Labries last year.

Article 10 on the warrant for Annual Town Meeting sought authorization to purchase 89 Clark St. for the senior center. Article 11 asked voters permission to buy the 52-acre property from the Labries. Permission to buy is not permission to finance. Now, a debt exclusion vote will ask residents to exclude payments on the $2.2 million purchase from the town’s operating budget. If passed by voters, the payments on the land will be added on top of assessed taxes.

The painful truth about the 89 Clark St. property wasn’t learned until a week before Town Meeting. Cain pointed to the committee’s desire to be responsive to stakeholders’ feedback: residents want the senior center centrally located in the town. Cain and the building committee hoped to obey the wishes of residents. The loss of the option, however, won’t stop the process of spending Parson’s generous gift. The town will get a new senior center, just not on Clark Street.

Cain wrote in a newsletter posting, “Although we have done our due diligence on Clark Street, we don’t believe this change of location will have any long term impact on the completion of the future senior center.”