Millis Select Board discusses possible purchase of 30 acres on Village StreetMar 26, 2021 09:14AM ● By Chuck Tashjian
The Town of Millis has the opportunity to purchase 23 acres at 377 Village Street for $1 million. Source: Millis Select Board
Town has the option to purchase Braun property for $1 million
By Theresa Knapp
The Millis Select Board held a public hearing on March 1 to discuss whether the town should exercise its right of first refusal to purchase 23 acres of agricultural land owned at 377 Village Street.
If the town waives its rights, property owner Richard M. Braun can proceed with a signed purchase and sale agreement for $1 million with local developer Robert Fox who proposes to build a senior residential community on the land. Fox also developed abutting Acorn Place.
This parcel is located near the intersection of Village, Acorn and Himelfarb Streets. There are wetlands and a small stream on the land which would impact future useability. It is in close proximity to two other town-owned parcels (one is a direct abutter at the pack portion of the Braun property) totalling 35.4 acres. Those parcels are accessible from Village Street and are under the jurisdiction of the Conservation Commission.
Millis Select Board Chairperson Jim McCaffrey said “there is some urgency here” and the Select Board should decide in March if the town will waive its rights, or exercise the town’s right of first refusal and purchase the land for $1 million.
Town Administrator Mike Guzinski explained at the hearing the three funding options:
Borrow within the current tax levy cap, through the General Fund, which would not require a debt exclusion;
Borrow within the tax levy cap but also (apply for and) utilize some Community Preservation Funds (which would put some restrictions on the future use of the parcel, specifically restricting future construction on the land); or
Borrow using a debt exclusion (override) which would require a town meeting vote and a ballot question in the May election (estimated tax increase is $30 per year per household for 20 years).
Community Preservation Committee Chairperson Nathan Maltinsky confirmed there are grant funds available in the Community Preservation Act account for this purchase.
Planning Board members spoke in favor of purchasing the land including Chairperson Richard Nichols. “To have a piece of property like this come up does not happen very often and should be something the town should look at long and hard.” Nichols said the town could use the land as open space now and use it for something else in the future such as housing or a school when needed.
Conservation Commission Chairperson James Lederer said his commission is in support of purchasing the property. “We’ve been discussing this at length. There are wetlands but there are lots of areas that can be built up for recreational use.”
Recreation Committee Chairperson Tim Davis said his board supports the purchase, adding “The immediate impact can be seen as a passive parcel but we are in desperate need of fields...Recreation as a whole is in need of more property to develop.”
Public comments raised issues on town budgeting priorities, the need for a senior center, the current “underinvesting” in maintenance of current town properties, and a suggestion that $1 million might be better spent elsewhere,
It was noted there is town water near 377 Village Street but town sewer would need to be extended.
If the town decides to waive its rights, developer Fox proposes to build a senior residential community to include 46 condominiums. He also intends to leave approximately 12 acres as open space (which he would grant to the town at no cost) where he would have walking trails to connect to the abutting town-owned land.
Fox’s attorney Edward Cannon said this development would have no impact on the schools and would generate $10,346 per unit per year in tax revenue. This is a market-rate development, not based on income level.
Zoning Board of Appeals Chairperson Peter Koufopoulos supports the proposed development plan calling it a “win-win” for both sides. He also noted the small remaining residential lot that contains the Braun home will become a non-conforming lot and urged the town to work with the developer to make it conform.
As of press time, no decision had been made on how to proceed.