Do you want to buy this tree farm?

I took a walk Saturday morning with a few members of the Community Preservation Committee through some of the 150 acres of land that now make up the Pell Tree Farm on George Hill Road. The Pell family has been working with the Trust for Public Land to put together a plan for the town to purchase the property; the family had been approached by a local developer interested in acquiring it.

It’s really an interesting property. It abuts the Warren Brook Conservation Area in Upton, which makes it especially appealing for conservation. It’s comprised of woods, fields and pieces that are in the in-between stage.

And, by the way, this overcast morning after a night of rainfall as the remnants of a tropical storm was moving in? Wicked buggy.

According to Chris LaPointe, project manager for the TPL and a Grafton resident, the property would cost the town roughly $2.1 million. The town, working with the TPL, has applied for $500,000 in grants and would be eligible for additional funds if it had a land management plan in place.

The family hopes to retain the right to use the land as a Christmas tree farm over the next 10 years.

The Community Preservation Committee will be holding a public hearing on the matter Tuesday night at 7 p.m. The Planning Board, which meets tonight at 7 p.m.,  also has the issue on the table as a discussion item, according to the agenda posted online.

The general consensus was that this was possibly a well pump-house.

Possibly some of the purchase price could be defrayed by selling off some of the land as buildable lots.

The question of whether to buy the land will likely land on the Oct. 20 Town Meeting warrant. I’m hoping to post an aerial shot of the property — I handed over my email on a somewhat-smeared piece of notebook paper (do I need to make up business cards for my blog? It might make life easier) — so if I do get some jpegs, I’ll update.

Thanks for the invite, Keith!

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6 thoughts on “Do you want to buy this tree farm?

  1. Thanks for coming Jenn. Sorry it was so wet and buggy, but at least no one reached inside any large farm animals, right?

    Wanted to emphasize that the town’s portion of the proposed purchase price would come from Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds.

    The town adopted the CPA in 2002; homeowners are levied a surcharge (1.5 percent) on their property taxes and the state matches what we collect locally. We can only use the money on open space, affordable housing, historic preservation and recreation.

    The point is that no new or additional taxes would be needed to fund the purchase under this proposal, though future CPA revenue would be bonded against to close the deal.

    Two other quick points:

    This property is mentioned in the town’s Open Space & Master Plan as lying with a priority area for conservation (it is just uphill from Silver Lake, where the town’s swimming beach is located).

    Also, a key takeaway from the 2001 Comprehensive Plan was that townspeople wanted to reduce future density potential in parts of town, including the eastern corridor.

    Having served on the Planning Board for nearly eight years, I can say without hesitation that the single best tool for reducing density and controlling growth–while minimizing unintended consequences– is land acquisition.

    Thanks again for taking the time and for spreading the 411.

  2. You’re welcome, anytime! Thanks for clarifying — I’m not feeling my normal self today and completely skipped over the details on funding. But I did want to get it out there and get the conversational ball rolling.

  3. I have a question regarding funding- is there any estimate on the cost impact associated to expected increased town services IF the Pell’s sold the property and the developer then built ‘x’ number of units? Everyone complains that new developments (and those pesky new families) increase the burden on our municipality services (like schools), so I’m wondering if there is any way to determine what might be the savings if development did not occur.

    Theoretically, the total cost of 2.1m, minus this reduced savings and grants, would be the final cost…right?

  4. Yes i’m not sure of all the different formulas but you can figure on two children per house hold times the average cost your town pays for schooling (found in state and local stats) for 12 yrs.
    If its an elder complex your cost for ambulance does increase like I said don’t know all of the coast associations but there all available in the state stats

  5. According to this site Grafton spends $9,476 per pupil per year on education—exclusive of investments in buildings.

    Much of that money comes from the state and not local taxes. Still, if you factor in roads, police, fire, town hall, recreation, etc., it’s easy to see each house with two kids costing the town $10,000 a year in services while the kids are in school.

    Given our tax rate of around $10/$1,000 a house would have to be assessed at $1 million just to get to where the town is breaking even. Any lower value is probably a loser under that two-kids scenario. So either we’d need to convince developers to build the homes for empty-nesters or make sure they’re all really expensive.

  6. What a beautiful piece of land. It would be a shame if this land all went to a developer. I think everyone would agree that there’s way too much building going on in town. I hope that the town is able to purchase it.

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