Selectmen Pass on Eastleigh Farm Grant
Framingham Selectmen decided to decline a $500,000 state grant that could have helped protect Eastleigh Farm from developers; and Selectmen rejected a plea to rejoin the MetroWest Regional Collaborative.
The future of Eastleigh Farm remains a question after the Board of Selectmen decided to pass on a $500,000 state grant that would have allowed a conservation restriction on the 112-acre farm.
It took less than a minute for Selectman Ginger Esty to read a prepared motion and the board to vote on the matter during Tuesday night’s meeting.
Esty’s motion read, “In concurrence with the property owner we are declining to accept the Eastleigh Farms land grant at this time.”
The motion was prepared in executive session, which preceded the regular meeting.
When asked after the meeting why the board of Selectmen decided not to accept the grant, Esty would only say that the grant came with too many restrictions and the property owner was in agreement with the board’s decision.
In December, the state approved a $500,000 grant for the farm in Framingham’s northwest quarter. Owner Doug Stephan and the town were seeking a conservation restriction so the land, which has been a working farm since the 1700s, could never be turned into a development.
The conservation restriction will also have created links to Callahan
State Park and other protected land in the area. Under the restriction the property would be accessible for low-impact recreation.
Even if the town had accepted the grant, it would not have been obligated to purchase the development rights to Eastleigh Farm. The grant would only come to Framingham after other sources of funding were in place.
For years, Stephan has resisted overtures from developers to sell the farm. But he said making payments on the $5 million mortgage is increasingly difficult. Instead of selling the Farm to developers, Stephan pursued an arrangement with the Sudbury Valley Trustees that would give development rights to the land conservation group. That deal would have allowed the property to be sold but never developed. The trustees would ensure that the property would remain pasture land with farming an allowed use.
In other action, the Selectmen rejected a plea by the MetroWest Regional Collaborative to rejoin the group after a year’s hiatus but left open the possibility that Framingham might become a dues paying member next fiscal year.
The Collaborative is a planning group that looks at the region as a whole and addresses issues that go beyond municipal borders. The organization focuses on land use, transportation, municipal governance, mitigation of development impacts and coordination of municipal services. It covers the MetroWest region from I-95 to I-495 along the Route 9 corridor.
The Selectmen balked at the roughly $8,300 cost to join the Collaborative through the end of this fiscal year. Selectmen Chairn Jason Smith asked
that the 2013 budget be scrutinized to see if $20,000 could be freed up to pay for dues for next year.