A packed crowd of neighbors voiced their concerns to the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday night over news that may drastically impact the Tom Paul Trail.
Director of Land Use Management Chris Kluchman presented a memorandum to the Selectmen recommending they not use their right of first refusal on the sale of 64 Main St., a 26 acre lot with a driveway near the corner of Depot Street also known as the Agnew Property.
An agreement on the property was first made in February, but due to a restriction on the land connected with the establishment of the Tom Paul Trail, the town has the right to match the offer made and retain the property for public use.
After several months of work by a study committee, it was determined that the parcel was valued at $620,000 or $80,000 less than offered for the property by potential buyers David Guthrie and Chris Finneral.
The fact that the parcel was worth less than being offered prohibits the town from using Community Preservation Funds to purchase the land. Additionally, the Selectmen would need to call a Special Town Meeting before the deadline of June 13 to appropriate the money if they decide to pursue buying the property.
In March, attorney Douglas Deschenes, writing on behalf of Guthrie and Finneral, indicated that his clients would be willing to sell the 15 acre back portion of the property to the Conservation Commission for $200,000.
Despite the study committee’s recommendation that the town not purchase the whole lot, the committee did recommend that the Conservation Commission purchase the back portion of the lot, which includes a significant portion of the Tom Paul Trail.
The recommendation not to preserve the land drew ire from nearby residents for reasons ranging from their use of the trail to fears of another development impacting class sizes at the Abbot School to noise issues with the property as it is now.
John Conway, the owner of 66 Main St., told the board in no uncertain terms that he saw development of anything other than a single home on the property as unacceptable.
“You’ve heard the neighbors. This is a case I will fight in court if I have to, I will fight to preserve that property,” he said. “I will bring every penny in my pocket to this.”
The board was reticent to ignore the recommendation presented by Kluchmann, but delayed any action until their next meeting due to the possibility of other solutions such as fundraisers or other grants.
“I get how important this is to the people here, and I wish we had the money to do what people want,” said Selectman Kelly Ross. “But $700,000 is a lot of money and we have a lot of priorities. I can’t see voting $700,000 to this, but if there is another buyer or fundraising, I don’t want to schedule a Special Town Meeting just yet.”
A decision, if any, will likely occur at the Selectmen’s next meeting due to the fact that their next meeting after that is scheduled for June 10, three days before the deadline and likely too late to schedule a Special Town Meeting if one was needed to appropriate the money for the property.