WINCHESTER - After a one week postponement to finish gathering proposals, the Select Board attempted to pass Article 14, which would have allowed for the sale or lease of approximately 4,545 square feet of land located at 39 Horn Pond Brook Road. The land sits in the Main Street and Clark Street area of Horn Pond Brook Road near the Woburn line.
Town Meeting, however, chose to indefinitely postpone the article. Concern arose after Planning Board Chair Heather von Mering announced the board had only recently seen the proposed plan from the developer who wanted to purchase the land.
von Mering said the plan, which would give the town some affordable units to help it reach safe-harbor status and avoid unwanted 40B projects, required more work and didn’t specifically state how many units would be included.
She also added, “we can’t give away valuable land.”
Speaking on behalf of the article, Select Board member Michael Bettencourt called the parcel of land “very sloped and not really usable.” He announced that proposals came in last Friday, which is why the article had to be moved from night two of Town Meeting to night three.
A prospective developer offered the town $30,000 for the land and if the deal ever goes through, Bettencourt said the developer and the town would work together on a “friendly” 40B. The plan calls for first floor retail with residences on the second floor.
“This would be a significant increase to the tax revenue if these units are built,” Bettencourt stressed.
He also noted how the land is near the floodplain and the town would never use it.
“This will be a 40B with or without us,” Bettencourt acknowledged.
While the Planning Board recommended unfavorable action, the Finance Committee recommended favorable action.
Some Town Meeting members spoke on the article including Roger Wilson who reminded those in attendance the town needs rentals and not condos to reach safe-harbor status. He asked for any proposed units to be rentals.
Bettencourt stated the RFP (Request for Proposals) never went into that much detail on the number of units required, then added there could be 16 total units. The town mostly wants sell away a “slim sliver of land” it wouldn’t ever use, get some money back, and work with the developer on a project that would bring in affordable units.
As Bettencourt said, “it’s time to move forward.”
He added the Town Planner supports the proposal and Bettencourt called it a “necessary opportunity.”
Town Meeting member Chris Nixon said he could support the article “in principal,” then asked if the land had been appraised. Mina Makarious, Town Counsel, said an appraisal had been completed, but due to ongoing negotiations, wasn’t being announced publicly.
After a Town Meeting member called for indefinite postponement, the motion was seconded and approved.