LYNNFIELD — The Select Board on Monday expressed its support for buying the Richardson Green property on upper Main Street even though a developer is making another attempt to build elderly housing on the land.
The Select Board closed the four-article Fall Town Meeting warrant on Monday, which includes a citizens’ petition from developer Angus Bruce that will ask the town’s legislative body to approve rezoning the 1425 Main St. property from Single Residence D to Elderly Housing. Bruce’s decision to submit Article 4 for the Oct. 18 Town Meeting warrant occurred the same night as the Select Board voted to accept a $1,638,750 million state grant that would be allocated for the land purchase.
Bruce and the Richardson family have come to terms on a $2.7 million purchase and sale agreement for the 20-acre parcel located at 1425 Main St. He proposed developing the property for elderly housing as part of a project called the Woods of Lynnfield that the 2019 April Town Meeting overwhelmingly rejected.
The Richardson Green parcel is classified as forestry land under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 61, which results in a reduction of property taxes as long as the land is not developed for residential use. Under Chapter 61, the town has the right to acquire the Richardson Green property or assign it to a nonprofit organization if the Select Board decides to exercise its right of first refusal.
While Bruce is slated to give a presentation about Article 4 at the Select Board’s meeting on Monday, Oct. 4, he informed the Villager that the newest 55-and-older development would consist of 54 units, one of which would be an affordable unit designated for a veteran.
Bruce said his proposal involves giving 10 acres to the town that would be used for open space. He said residents would be able to access the open space area from the development’s road, and he would build a parking lot for residents to use.
“People would not only be able to access the 10 acres, but they can also access the property in the back,” said Bruce. “I have also agreed to give the town $20,000 per unit excluding the affordable unit. I would also bring water from the Lowell Street intersection into the development.”
Bruce also said his plan entails installing fire hydrants not only on the Richardson Green property, but also along upper Main Street. Upper Main Street residents currently use private wells and have expressed concerns in the past about having adequate fire suppression in the area.
Select Board eyes land purchase
In addition to closing the Fall Town Meeting warrant, the Select Board unanimously voted to accept a $1,638,750 state grant that can be used to buy the 20-acre Richardson Green parcel.
Town Administrator Rob Dolan recalled that Lynnfield was awarded the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) grant from the Baker-Polito administration last month. He said Planning and Conservation Director Emilie Cademartori, Essex County Greenbelt Land Conservation Director Chris LaPointe and Lynnfield Center Water District Superintendent John Scenna played key roles in helping the town get the grant.
“It’s a pretty competitive grant,” said Dolan. “We asked for the maximum amount, which very few people thought we would get. We have received one of the largest grants in the history of this program.”
Select Board Chairman Dick Dalton said the MVP grant will allow the town to move forward with purchasing the Richardson Green property.
“It’s something I am personally in favor of,” said Dalton.
Select Board member Phil Crawford also expressed his support for buying Richardson Green.
“I am blown away that we got this grant,” said Crawford. “It’s just amazing. I want to congratulate everybody who worked on it because it’s a feather in their cap and a big bonus for the town of Lynnfield. I think this gives us the best opportunity to move forward with the Richardson Green purchase, and we can supplement that with other funds we get from our partnerships groups.”
In addition to the $1,638,750 grant, the Conservation Commission voted late last year to allocate $200,000 from its Conservation Fund for the Richardson Green land purchase. The Essex County Greenbelt Association has also committed to raising $300,000 for the land purchase. As a result, an additional $571,250 needs to be appropriated in order for the town to purchase the Richardson Green property.
Dolan informed the Villager that the town will be using federal stimulus money to buy Richardson Green.
“During this ongoing discussion regarding the Richardson Green property, the charge of the Select Board has been to provide an analysis of the merits of land purchase, search for partnerships and grant opportunities, and find revenue sources that have minimal impact on taxpayers and direct services,” said Dolan. “I believe that has been accomplished. This land purchase will provide much needed protection for our wells and the Ipswich River Watershed and preserve open space. We have formed a partnership with Essex Greenbelt Association to permanently protect the land and they have committed $300,000 toward the purchase. Through the advocacy of our state delegation, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has awarded Lynnfield a $1,638,750 Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Grant. The Conservation Commission has pledged $200,000 from their land acquisition account, and the town is planning to use $571,250 in federal stimulus money recently accepted by the Select Board.”
Select Board member Joe Connell also expressed his support for buying the Richardson Green property. He thanked the Baker-Polito administration, Essex County Greenbelt and the Conservation Commission for working collaboratively to help the town purchase the property.
“I never thought we would be able to buy this property,” said Connell.
Dalton also thanked House Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading) and State Sen. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) for helping the town get the MVP grant.
“The results were beyond what everyone’s expectations were,” said Dalton. “On behalf of the board, I want to thank them very much for their efforts.”
In addition to accepting the $1,638,750 grant, the Select Board also discussed buying Richardson Green during executive session on Monday night.
Additional warrant articles
In addition Bruce’s latest overall development proposal, Fall Town Meeting on Monday, Oct. 18 will consist of three other articles.
The Planning Board submitted the proposed Tree Preservation Bylaw, which will be Article 3 on the Fall Town Meeting warrant.
The Select Board submitted Article 1, which seeks to pay overdue bills from a prior fiscal year. The Select Board also submitted Article 2, which will seek to transfer funds in order to supplement certain accounts in the current fiscal year 2022 budget.