Grove Street Lot Purchase
Reading, MA — After an entire evening of debate, Town Meeting voted 120-40-1 to accept the offer of Bancroft Estates to purchase one lot on Grove Street, adjacent to the Town Forest, for up to $450,000, to be appropriated from the town’s free cash reserves. Five lots in total are up for sale by the Meadowbrook Golf Club, which Bancroft has already agreed to purchase for $2.25 million. The town has a right of first refusal to purchase all five lots for the same price to which the developer has already agreed. A Town Meeting vote to accept the right of first refusal for all five lots failed to reach the two-thirds requirement needed when a land purchase is involved. It has been suggested that the single lot could be used to develop a parking area for the nearby Town Forest.
The session began with twenty-five minutes of debate over whether or not to take the article to make the purchases out of order. Annika Scanlon from the Conservation Commission then shared a presentation highlighting the proximity of some fragile habitats, vernal pools, and wetlands to the lots in question. “It is rare that we can buy land back and protect it,” Scanlon suggested. Kurt Habel, a member of the Town Forest Committee, agreed. “Any chance you get to enlarge a conservation area is better than getting a separate parcel elsewhere,” Habel argued.
Town Meeting member Marianne Downing expressed concern over the price of the land, especially when compared to the Zanni property on Haverhill Street purchased by the town just a few years ago. Town Meeting member Alica Williams agreed, also expressing concern over the lack of a plan to use the land. “[This purchase is] not fiscally responsible,” Williams contended. “It is not Town Meeting’s job to figure out how to use it later.”
Select Board chair Karen Harrick disagreed. “The Town Forest is a resource that we should invest in,” Herrick affirmed. “We cannot make [decisions about its use] without control [of the property].” Town Meeting member Nancy Docktor referred to the opportunity as a “win-win,” encouraging the acquisition.
“Any time we have the chance to buy land, we should do it,” Docktor opined.
John Arena offered an amendment to scale the purchase down to the one lot, which would have eliminated Town Meeting’s chance to weigh in on the entire five-lot purchase. The amendment failed 64-106. Moderator Alan Foulds determined that a second motion authorizing the purchase of the one lot under the same article would be acceptable due to it being substantially different from the amendment. The original amendment would require two-thirds to pass the main motion as opposed to a simple majority needed for a second amendment.
The final vote to approve the exercise of the right of first refusal of the five lots tallied at 102-68-2, falling just short of the 113 votes it needed to pass.
Town Meeting adjourned at 11:00 pm and will resume on Monday, October 25 at 7:30 pm.