By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — The Select Board will be holding a public hearing on the proposed purchase of the Richardson Green property, 1425 Main St., on Monday, Nov. 15, beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the Al Merritt Media and Cultural Center.
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 municipalities typically have 120 days in order to exercise the right of first refusal, the COVID-19 state of emergency has extended the timeline.
Developer Angus Bruce and the Richardson Green group have come to terms on a $2.7 million purchase and sale agreement for the 20-acre parcel located on upper Main Street. Mirabeau Lane resident Richard Ripley recently submitted and subsequently withdrew Article 4 for Fall Town Meeting, which sought to rezone the property from Single Residence D to Elderly Housing. Bruce proposed building a 55-and-over townhouse development comprised of 54 units on the property. Bruce has also proposed building 15 single-family homes on the property as part of a proposed development called Hannah’s View Estates.
The Select Board, Finance Committee and Planning Board unanimously voted not to recommend Article 4 due to the town being awarded a $1,638,750 Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness state grant in order to help Lynnfield purchase the Richardson Green property.
Bruce originally proposed developing the property as part of the Woods of Lynnfield elderly housing project that the 2019 Spring Town Meeting rejected.
Richardson Green abuts land owned by the Conservation Commission and the Lynnfield Center Water District, and the property is located in the Ipswich River Watershed.
In addition to the $1.6 million MVP 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.
Town Administrator Rob Dolan recently informed the Villager that the remaining $571,250 that needs to be appropriated for the land purchase will come from funds from the American Rescue Plan Act that President Joe Biden signed into law earlier this year. The town has been awarded $3,885,490 from the ARPA.
The Select Board expressed its support for purchasing Richardson Green in September.
A local advocacy group known as the Richardson Green Citizens’ Group has repeatedly urged the Select Board to exercise its right of first refusal because they are concerned that developing the property would negatively affect the LCWD’s water supply and would result in over 3,200 trees being clear-cut. The citizens group and the Ipswich River Watershed Association (IRWA) are also concerned about the development’s impact on the watershed, which supplies drinking water to 350,000 North Shore residents. The national advocacy group American Rivers named the Ipswich River as the eighth most endangered river in the United States this past spring.
Over 80 percent of responders stated that they believe it is very important for the parcel to remain as undeveloped forested conservation land.
Residents will be required to wear masks at the public hearing on Monday. If residents are unable to attend the hearing, they can submit signed written testimony to the Select Board, 55 Summer Street, Lynnfield MA 01940, or via email to Assistant Town Administrator Bob Curtin at firstname.lastname@example.org prior to 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 12 for consideration at the meeting.