Caucus date set
At their Jan. 9 meeting, selectmen set the date for the Town Caucus: Saturday, Feb. 9. It will held in the Town Hall meeting room. A list of vacancies on town boards and committees is available from Town Clerk Janet Vellante.
Land gift questioned, property buy turned down
When acceptance of a 5.6-acre parcel on St. John Lane offered to the town as a gift came up for discussion, the board decided to hold off before making its decision, pending a couple of questions they'd like to ask the owner.
While mindful of the Conservation Commission's recommendation to accept the land and grateful for the generous gift as offered, Selectman Bill Johnson asked if the owner might be asked to consider amending its restrictions.
For example, the land gift is conditional upon its being used only as conservation land. But it would give the town more benefit as an "unrestricted" gift, he posited, allowing the parcel to be used for, say, a soccer field or a town building, or even sold.
The board discussed possible scenarios and concluded it would make little sense for the owner to make the gift open-ended versus simply selling the land himself. Maybe, though, a municipal/conservation restriction would be acceptable?
Located at the end of the dead-end street, the land is valued at $300,000, Town Administrator Tim Bragan said, which translates to $5,267 in annual taxes due the town. According to Land Use Board Administrator Liz Allard, it includes wetlands but contains no identified vernal pool or wildlife habitat designation.
Bragan agreed to contact the owner.
Another parcel on Depot Road that has been protected as agricultural land under Chapter 61-A is up for sale, along with a house on the property. The owner has a purchase agreement in hand, Bragan said, and as the law requires, the town gets right of first refusal to buy the property at its current sale price. The selectmen declined it, voting unanimously to take no action.
The School Committee recently sent a letter to selectmen about maintenance costs and other such issues at Bromfield House, where administrative offices are located.
Valued at less than $300,000 and with numerous ills to address and no plans at present to hook up to town sewer, future use of the old manse is in question. But with several municipal buildings "in the hopper" in terms of re-use and related cost projections, Chairwoman Lucy Wallace suggested calling a joint three-board meeting with the School and Finance committees to discuss the town's long-range plans.
Johnson advised holding off on the sit-down until after budget season. The board agreed.
Center on the Common requests entertainment license
A hearing will be held at the Feb. 1st selectmen's meeting to discuss a request from the Center on the Common -- formerly the Old Library -- for an entertainment license. In accordance with board policy, the hearing is being announced now and abutters will be notified in the meantime, Bragan said.
Town Hall project
Special permit and variance applications were on track to be filed with the Zoning Board of Appeals on Jan. 15, Bragan told the board. Currently, the GPR civil engineering document was in process and would be sent to Town Counsel Mark Lanza for review.
Wallace asked how things stood with alternative offices to move into while the renovation is in progress. The two potential sites still under consideration are in the Appleworks building on Ayer Road and an office building in Devens. Bragan said site visits would be set up soon for both.
-- M. E. Jones