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Plan to Purchase Land at 203 Pond Street Fails at Special Town Meeting

By Tom Nappi, News Director

On Wednesday Night (March 3rd) a special town meeting was held to vote on if the town can purchase a parcel of land, approximately 43 acres for open space preservation at 203 Pond Street. The total cost of the parcel would be $2,000,000. The special town meeting was held to meet the March 14th deadline to purchase the parcel. During the meeting it was calculated that the maximum tax impact for the typical household would be $29.98 per year on a 10 year bond should the town purchase the approximately 43 acres of land.

To start the town meeting, it was immediately voted and passed unanimously that the order of the Warrant be changed to start with Article 3: "203 Pond Street - Purchase of Land". In short the article would allow the town to purchase "Lots 1-12" at 203 Pond Street for $2,000,000. Article 3 covered 12 acres of the land, but the rest of the land would have been gifted to the town under Article 1, should Article 3 pass. Also at the beginning of discussion some time was taken to change some minor terminology in the Board of Selectmen proposal. The open discussion started with the Open Space Preservation Committee recommending approval followed by the Appropriations Committee and Capital Improvements not recommending the purchase. John Mosher presented the Board of Selectmen's approval for the purchase stating that the land provides unique and compelling attributes, provides connection and access and is consistent with a part of Hopkinton's vision statement; "Protect open spaces and natural resources, build upon the town’s history and cultural heritage, and treasure our beautiful and special places as they define our community identity and character".

Director of Land Protection for the Sudbury Valley Trustees Christa Collins, backed Mosher stating that the land; balances growth, links existing conservation lands, would be ideal for walkers, hikers and bikers and is in close proximity to sensitive natural habitats. The Sudbury Valley Trustee representative also mentioned that the 203 Pond Street land sits between 1,357 acres of the Upton State Forest and 815 acres of the Whitehall State Park. David Goldman of the Hopkinton Area Land Trust backed the purchase stating the land would provide 800 feet or more of connectivity and if not purchased the connectivity would be limited to 50 feet between Upton State Forest and Whitehall State Park.

Ken Weismantel of the planning board stated that the land was the best open space subdivision development he has seen during his time with the planning board. Weismantel stated $2 million was very high for open space and $15,000-$25,000 per acre is the typical cost spent for open space land. Weismantel has also proposed plans that cut down on the amount of land the town should purchase at 203 Pond Street. The Community Preservation Committee also voted against using CPC funds to purchase the land. Ron Clark of the Community Preservation Committee recommended no vote because of other community needs such as new school, library and DPW needs. Clark also stated that there are other connections to Upton State Forest without the land and the town should spend more on people rather than historic preservation. "We really have more pressing opportunities for money in Hopkinton." Clark also agreed that if the town was going to purchase any land at 203 Pond Street, they should scale down the purchase to 1 or 2 lots. Frank D'Urso of the Planning Board stated the town should consider other options than town funds for the purchase. Former planning board member Sandy Altamura talked about her frustrations of the topic due to the fact the town did not consider purchasing an earlier proposal of 240 acres on Lumber Street for $2 million and was opposed stating the town can't afford 2 million for 12 house lots.

Article 3: Land Purchase - 203 Pond Street was called to a standing vote and failed the 2/3rd majority requirement with 113 voting against the purchase and 152 in favor. Following a motion for no action on Article 1: Gift of Land - 203 Pond Street and Article 2: Gift of Land - 22 School Street passed unanimously.

If the town did not purchase the land, owners of the land John Coolidge and Ann Richards plan to sell to Canton based developer "Diamond Building Inc," which plans to build a 12 home subdivision, Michael Manning, Chair of the Appropriations Committee estimated the town revenue would be approximately $180,000 per year if 12 housing units were built on the land. Manning also stated 12 units of housing would likely be revenue neutral to the town. The other 32 acres of land will likely remain as open space regardless.

More Coverage to Follow on HCAM News.