Sudbury Vision

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I have concerns over giving tax dollars to any land owner who threatens to sell their land to developers and have the town pay them huge amounts of money to block any development without the town owning the property.  It’s one thing for the town to use CPC funds to purchase land to preserve open space.  However, when we are giving the land owners hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars to keep the land as is, they still own the land and use if for farming profits or scouting, it seems like the town is being held hostage and we always pay the ransom.   

 

I have brought this up before.  The town owns a number of properties which are still being farmed.  The town is not in the farming business, yet the town allows farmers to use the town owned land for free to turn a profit.  How can this be considered fair to all taxpayers?

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Comment by Sio on January 25, 2012 at 8:56am

pmotw - Has there been any input from the other boards regarding this?

Comment by Bulldog Friday on January 9, 2012 at 9:44am

The word "threatens" bothers me.  The landowner needs both a) the intent and b) the right to sell his land for development.  If either is lacking no sale will occur.  If the town owns the development rights, the landowner no longer has and cannot sell the right to develop the land regardless of any change in intent.

While the current owners may not plan to develop the land, their intent can change.  See Johnson Farm.

Comment by Bulldog Friday on January 8, 2012 at 11:47pm

Setting aside "What is a fair price?", the deals are valuable both to both the landowner and the town.

Certainly for the Nobscot (Boy Scout) reservation, the town didn't buy the land; the town bought the development rights.  The $8.6 million (total) paid for the rights wouldn't buy 300+ acres of developable land in Sudbury.  The town wanted not to put the children of 47 single family lots into the Sudbury schools.  The impact of developing the land as multi-family or rental housing would have been even greater.  Now the Boy Scouts can keep the land for scouting--or they can sell it.  The town owns the development rights so the property cannot be developed in either case.  The alternative--the Scouts sell Nobscot outright for development, use part of the money to buy another reservation somewhere else, and use the remainder of the money to bolster their finances--was quite viable.  I think buying the rights was a very worthwhile expense.

I assume the mechanism for preserving farmland is the same:  the town doesn't buy the land, but buys the development rights to the land at a lower price than the outright land purchase.  The owner retains certain rights--but not the right to develop the property, and not the ability to sell the property to anyone else who will develop it in the future.  Since the owners still own the property they still pay taxes on it.  This is my understanding of the Pantry Brook proposal.

Does the town own property outright which it lets someone farm for free (as opposed to leasing)?  Which property?  I've never heard of this.

The town is getting exactly what it is buying--a restriction which precludes development.  Given the municipal costs (kids in school) associated with development, every lot we protect is an ongoing win for taxpayers.  

The 2008 warrant describes the Nobscot restriction:

http://www.town.sudbury.ma.us/departments/Selectmen/doc4140/ATMWarr...

The Pantry Brook proposal is here:

http://www.town.sudbury.ma.us/departments/CPC/doc7008/2012PantryBro...

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