Globe -Wellesley College agrees to sell 46 undeveloped acres to town

Wellesley College agrees to sell 46 undeveloped acres to town

By Jennifer Fenn Lefferts GLOBE CORRESPONDENT
DECEMBER 19, 2014
Wellesley College has agreed to sell 46 acres of undeveloped land to the town, a move
that will generate revenue for campus improvements while protecting the property from
large-scale development and giving the town much-needed space for municipal uses.
The college’s board of trustees voted unanimously Wednesday to accept the town’s bid
of $35 million for the so-called North 40 parcel. The college and the town’s Board of
Selectmen signed a purchase-and-sales agreement Thursday afternoon. Residents will
be asked to approve the sale at a special Town Meeting next month and election in
March.“The fact that the town’s offer was so responsive to the issues and values the college has
around open space and sustainability and the impact on neighbors and town services,
meant that it rose to the top of the bids we looked at,’’ said Marianne Cooley, assistant
to Wellesley College’s president and secretary for its board of trustees.

The town beat out 12 other proposals for the coveted residentially zoned land on
Weston Road, which many residents and officials feared could be developed for 80 to
100 single-family homes.
“We are extremely pleased to have reached an agreement with the college,” said Donald
McCauley, a selectman and chair of the town’s North 40 Visioning Committee.
“Acquisition of the North 40 will enable the town to control the future development of
this important parcel in a thoughtful manner, and provides great opportunities to
preserve open space, satisfy municipal needs, and ensure continued access to
recreational land for Wellesley residents.”
Cynthia Curtis, a spokeswoman for the Friends of the North 40, a group of residents
that formed to oppose development of the land, said she’s disappointed the college is
going through with the sale but relieved the town is the winning bidder.
“This is our best fallback positon,’’ she said. “If the college would not explore a
conservancy, then the most we were hoping for was that the town would buy the land,’’
she said. “Now the real work begins, and we’re looking forward to working
collaboratively with all the interested parties in town to make sure we come to the best
and most beneficial solution for all of us.’’McCauley said the town will continue to have a North 40 committee, but the focus now will be on determining the best use for the land. He said the committee will have
members of town boards, residents, and representatives from Wellesley College.
Potential uses include playing fields, housing, or a school.
Cooley said the college requested two seats on that committee so it can continue to have
a say in how it’s developed and protected.
“We are one of the neighbors of this property,’’ Cooley said, “and it’s something we
continue to be interested in.’’
The college decided earlier this year to sell the North 40 because its location, across
Route 135 and the MBTA commuter rail tracks, is not convenient to the main campus,
and the sale could raise money for needed improvements.
Town officials immediately expressed interest in the property and formed a committee
to put together a bid. The Friends of the North 40 organized a petition drive in the
hopes of saving the land from development. The North 40 is the home to varied wildlife,
a vernal pool, trail system, and community gardens.
The final bids included a proposal for housing, a continuing-care retirement
community, age-restricted housing, and multi-family housing. Town assessors have
valued the North 40 at $25.3 million.
“I think the college definitely could have gotten more money elsewhere,’’ McCauley said.
“It’s a fair price, but the college was eager to continue this as a joint enterprise. It’s
always been a shared asset, and the college was eager to see the town continue to utilize
Under the agreement between the town and college, at least 50 percent of the property
will be preserved in perpetuity as open space, although that could include playing fields.
Cooley said the terms of the agreement address many concerns raised over the past
several months, such as maintenance of significant open space in perpetuity,
preservation of the portion of the property south of the aqueduct as natural, forested
open space, dark sky lighting guidelines, and sustainable design practices. Other terms
and conditions provide for the future of the community gardens.
Before the sale becomes final, residents must approval both the sale and borrowing. The
Proposition 2½ debt exclusion needs a two-thirds vote at Town Meeting Jan. 20 and
then approval at a town election March 3. McCauley said the town would like to use
Community Preservation Funds to pay for about 25 percent of the project. The rest
would be funded by the debt exclusion.
McCauley said he is confident residents will support the purchase at Town Meeting and
the ballot box. Once that is done, the town can focus on how to make the best use of the
land. “There will be true discussions as to how we use it,’’ he said, “but people very much
want to have the town own and benefit from this land.’’
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