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SUDBURY

94 ‘premier’ acres up for preservation

Town Meeting voter s must OK $7.8m outlay

Town officials have reached an agreement with the owners of Pantry Brook Farm to permanently preserve 94 acres of open space seen as a critical part of Sudbury’s rural landscape and agricultural heritage.

Under the agreement, the town and the Sudbury Valley Trustees will purchase the development rights to the land off Concord Road for about $7.9 million through the recording of a permanent conservation restriction, said Jody Kablack, the town’s planning and community development director. The conservation restriction takes away the owner’s development rights and would limit the use on the property.

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“It’s been identified as one of the premier properties in townwe’d like preserved,’’ said Kablack. “It’s an extremely visible property and defines the character of Sudbury. It has that immediate visual impact on residents.’’

The town proposes using community preservation funds to pay for the purchase of the conservation restriction. Residents will vote on the appropriation at Town Meeting, which begins at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School. Residents are encouraged to tour the property Sunday at 3 p.m. to learn more about the land owned by Carole and Richard Wolfe.

Kablack said the property is home to open fields, streams, forest, wetlands, gardens, granite fence posts, and stone walls, all in a prime development location.

Based on the size of the property and zoning requirements, a minimum of 34 single-family homes could go in on the site, which has been eyed by developers over the years. Kablack said the owners prefer to preserve the land, which is why they are willing to move forward with the restriction.

Under the agreement, the Wolfes will maintain ownership of the property so the town will not be responsible for ongoing maintenance. The Wolfes can sell the land but it will continue to have the development restrictions, Kablack said.

“It’s highly developable land and in a desirable town like Sudbury, there is clearly a threat of development on this property,’’ Kablack said. “We are just lucky that it’s happening now when the town is in a position to do this with [community preservation] funds.’’

The town will use $7.76 million in Community Preservation Act open space funds and the Sudbury Valley Trustees will contribute $150,000 from the Sudbury Foundation to purchase the restriction.

Sudbury assesses a 3 percent surcharge on property tax bills and collects about $1.6 million annually for community preservation projects. Kablack said the Community Preservation Committee spends some money each year but has also been saving money with the hope that Pantry Brook Farm would become available. There is currently $6.7 million in the fund. Kablack said the committee will likely use about $4 million in cash and borrow the rest. The bond would be paid back with CPA funds so no additional tax money would be needed.

In addition to their contribution to the purchase price, the Sudbury Valley Trustees generate additional funds for stewardship of the land and monitoring of the restriction in perpetuity.

“That property has every conservation value I can think of,’’ said Ron McAdow, the executive director of the trustees.

The land features a variety of ecological habitats, including wetlands, streams, forest, open fields and hedgerows. It also includes productive agricultural land and a historical connection to the town’s agricultural past, McAdow said.

“Sudbury Valley Trustees has hoped for years that the landowners would create an opportunity for permanent conservation of this land because of its regional importance,’’ McAdow said. “It is a flagship conservation project as far as we are concerned.’’

The group’s contribution toward the sale price is made possible through a grant it received from the Sudbury Foundation. The foundation is a private group that makes donations to support key community projects.

“It’s such a central piece of land in Sudbury,’’ said Marilyn Martino, the foundation’s executive director. “If you drive through Sudbury, you see it and it will always look like that. We’re very hopeful it will be approved at Town Meeting.’’

Separately, Kablack said the Wolfes are looking to work with preservation group Historic New England to protect the structures on the site, including the 1825 Aaron Hunt House and two barns. Many original architectural elements have been unaltered within the farm house, including structural timber framing, woodwork, door and window hardware, plaster walls, and floorboards.

E-mail Jennifer Fenn Lefferts at jflefferts@yahoo.com
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