LCAT was asked to provide possible assistance to advocates in the Town of Acton in their quest to save the Caouette-Simeone Farm which is off Stow and Maple Streets in South Acton and includes much of Mill Pond and a part of the Rail Trail . Currently a working farm, the property, which consists of approximately 15.2 acres of arable land.
The Caouette-Simeone Farm (”C-S Farm”) land was place under agreement for purchase and sale by the owners to a residential housing developer. Because the land is under the protection of Massachusetts General Laws chapter 61A (agricultural protection), the Town of Acton retained a right of first refusal to purchase the land under the same terms as the developer. In April, 2010, the Town of Acton, Massachusetts Town Meeting voted to approve the allocation of $1m in Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds in order make the purchase. Subsequently, an appraisal and environmental studies were conducted. Due to market and environmental clean up issues, the property value was appraised at $830,000 (down from an original $1.08 million). By law, CPA funds cannot be used in excess of an appraisal. Moreover, it is estimated that environmental cleanup costs could be up to $200,000, plus additional environmental testing costs of $34,000 and extension fees of $22,500.Acton voters approved the purchase of the Caouette-Simeone land in South Acton by a wide margin at the special Town Meeting Oct. 25, preserving the land for open space rather than allowing homes to be built on the property.
Two articles on the Town Meeting warrant requested a total of $426,500 to be allocated from the town’s general fund for the purchase and environmental remediation of the property. Both articles were approved. The first, requesting $170,000 toward the $1 million land purchase, was approved with 381 to 43 votes. The second article, funding the cleanup of small portions of the land and negotiation extension fees, was approved unanimously.
The remainder of the land purchase price, $830,000, will be funded by the town’s Community Preservation Act funds as approved by Town Meeting in April.
Warren Woods, 120-140 acres of pristine farmland and woodland, is currently part of the Warren Conference Center owned by Northeastern University. The land was formerly the farm and homestead of Henry and Edith Warren. Henry Warren is credited with being the “Father of Electric Time” and was an entrepreneur, inventor, philanthropist, lover of nature, and a gentleman to all who knew and worked for him. Some of the Henry Warren’s land was donated to Northeastern University at the time of his death in 1957; the remainder was gifted to the university in 1967 by Henry’s wife Edith. The donations were made with provisions for preservation of the land; however, those provisions have since expired and Warren Woods was in danger of being sold for development.
After more than 18 months of work, the Ashland community was able to secure an agreement from Northeastern University for the purchase of the land for $5 million dollars, part of which to be paid out of the Community Preservation Act fund and part of which to be bonded. On Monday, November 29, 2010, the Ashland Town Meeting approved the purchase.
LCAT is proud to say it was there at the beginning of this battle. We helped advise a core group of advocates to help them build a coalition.
In the future, we hope to bring more to the table when these battles occur. We can only do that with help from donors.