Vote lets Ashland buy 95 acres of Rail Transit District

Ashland voters approved a land purchase that officials said will give the town control over much of the remaining portion of its Rail Transit District.

A Special Town Meeting on Nov. 28 appropriated $4.8 million to purchase 95 acres in the district, which runs on both sides of the MBTA access road from Route 135 to the train station.

Town Manager Michael Herbert said that with the purchase, the town also will effectively control an additional 32.5 acres in the district because the land owner, Robert Gayner, has agreed to donate 20 acres to the town and 12.5 acres to the MetroWest YMCA, which plans to build a facility there with the town’s support.


Ashland plans to use the 115 acres it is acquiring for a mix of commercial development, open space, and recreation. Also with the town’s backing, the owner plans to sell the remaining 18 acres of the Rail Transit site for the development of senior housing, Herbert said.

Residential homes were previously developed on about 26 acres of the district.

In other business, the Special Town Meeting advanced plans for a new $30 million downtown public safety building by appropriating $3.5 million to fund the cost of a project manager and engineering and design services for the project.

Voters at the Nov. 6 election had previously approved a debt exclusion — a tax increase that lasts as long as it takes to pay off the debt — to cover the cost. It is expected to add $30 to the annual average bill for a single-family home — which is currently $7,217 — for 20 years.

State Senate President Karen Spilka, an Ashland Democrat, earlier this year secured a $25 million state bond to fund the construction of the new combined police and fire station.

The Special Town Meeting also agreed to create an enterprise fund to pay for storm-water management costs, using revenues from a new fee to be charged to the owners of properties with impervious surfaces.


John Laidler can be reached at